COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Calvin men's hockey team fell to local MCHC rival Aquinas in the 2017 ACHA Division III National Championship by a score of 4-3.
The Knights rallied back from a 3-0 deficit, coming within one goal of the Saints on two separate occasions. Despite numerous chances late in the third period, Calvin was unable to net the game-tying goal.
Calvin completes its impressive season boasting a 28-3-2 overall record, which ties a program record for most wins in a season. The Knights also claimed the Michigan Collegiate Hockey Conference West Division regular season title for the second consecutive year.
"We have had a tremendous season," said head men's hockey coach Mike Petrusma. "This team exemplifies what college athletics are all about. Perseverance, commitment and dedication are just a few of the attributes this team has."
Both the Knights and the Saints entered the title game with unblemished tournament records. In pool play, Calvin defeated University of South Florida, Colorado State University and Farmingdale State College and then rallied back from a late two-goal deficit to defeat Florida Gulf Coast University in the semifinal game. Aquinas swept its pool of University of Tampa, Iowa State University and Fairfield University and then outscored Bryn Athyn University 3-1 in the third period of the other semifinal to claim a 4-2 victory.
The Saints got on the board in the third minute of play when Billy Warren's shot from the point trickled in behind Calvin goaltender Alex Gross (Fort Worth, Tex./Northern Cyclones EHL).
With 9:09 remaining in the first period, the Knights had back-to-back scoring chances, but were unable to capitalize. Aquinas held a 1-0 lead heading into first intermission.
The Saints built a three-goal lead late in the second period, scoring two goals within three minutes of one another. Calvin responded to Aquinas' goals, as junior Ryan Bradley (Clarkston, Mich./Royal Oak Shrine Catholic MHSAA) lit the lamp with 1:18 remaining in the second period.
Aquinas headed into the final 20 minutes with a 3-1 advantage. The Saints' lead was shaved to one goal when senior Cam Bell (Brampton, Ont./Brampton 45's TCMHL) scored 4:37 into the third period. Aquinas' Zach Glover answered Calvin's goal, scoring 2:20 later after a flurry in front of the net to reclaim the Saints' two-goal lead.
The Knights refused to quit and continued to pressure offensively. An Aquinas penalty with 9:31 remaining gave Calvin its first powerplay opportunity, but no goals resulted from the man advantage.
On the powerplay, a shot by Bell beat Aquinas goaltender Sean Schmeiser blocker side, but it ricocheted off the cross bar and back into play. However, Bell converted minutes later, burying a loose puck to make it a one-goal game with 3:30 left.
In the frenzied final minutes of the game, Calvin pulled Gross for the extra attacker and saw multiple chances, including another shot that rang off the crossbar. Nonetheless, Aquinas' defense and goaltender Sean Schmeiser fended off the determined Knights to claim the program's first ACHA National Title.
The Knights graduate six seniors, Cam Bell, Jordan Duncan (Oshawa, Ont./Oshawa Generals ETAHL), Ryan Racanelli (Brampton, Ont./Brampton 45's TCMHL), Austin Kath (Milwaukee, Wis./Milwaukee Jr. Admirals T1EHL), Frank Moresch (Malden, Mass./St. Thomas More) and Ryan Betts (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian).
Last season, the Knights earned a league championship and went on to finish as the number three team in country after falling to Aquinas in the national semifinals. In 2015, the Knights also competed in the national tournament where they finished 13th.
"Our senior class leaves as one of the most decorated classes we have had here at Calvin Hockey," said Petrusma. "Our fan, alumni and parent support was unbelievable. Our guys really appreciate all of their efforts."