ANGOLA, IND. – The Trine men's ACHA D2 hockey team have made the most of their inaugural season, wasting no time in becoming a powerhouse in the central region and taking a direct bid to the ACHA National Tournament.
The Thunder finished the regular season undefeated and as one of the more prolific offenses in the country, averaging over eight goals per game through the season. Now they will head to Columbus, Ohio, just five wins away from a national championship. But head coach Dan Mayes is focused on any of that.
"We can't get ahead of ourselves," said Mayes, "There is no point in talking about Monday or Tuesday right now. We have to focus solely on Friday."
To reach semifinal play on Monday, the Thunder first have to navigate their way through Pool A competition. On paper, that's simple. Just play a game against three different teams and come away with the best record out of your group of four.
In practice, that means taking on three high caliber teams in three days, with little room for error.
"You can't count on another team bailing you out if you lose a game," said Mayes, "The only way to guarantee moving on is to win all three. One loss takes your destiny out of your own hands."
Trine's opponents for pool play will include the University of New Hampshire, the University of Toledo and Northern Arizona University. Trine will enter the tournament as the second seed in their pool.
The top seed in Pool A will be Northern Arizona, who finished their regular season with a 23-8-1 record. The Ice Jacks received an automatic bid to the tournament after being ranked first in the final west regional rankings. As a team, they average six goals per game while allowing just over two. Lucas Lomax leads the team with 63 points including 33 goals. He also comes in second in assists with 30. Max Mahood comes in second with 49 points including the second most goals with 29.
In goal, Northern Arizona boasts two players with significant time in net. Joshua Nolan leads the team with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. Jaxon Gosnell comes in second in both categories with a 2.49 goals-against average and a .894 save percentage.
Coming in as the number three seed in the pool is the University of New Hampshire, who finished the season with an 18-7-1 record. The Wildcats were ranked third in the final northeast regional rankings and earned their bid to the tournament by taking down Amherst 7-3 in the finals of the regional tournament.
Three different skaters for New Hampshire lead the team with 14 goals apiece. Each Kyle Scancerella, Patrick Holmes and Jake Reardon each reached the mark. Scancerella also leads the team with 29 points total. Brendan Murphy leads the team with 17 assists and joins Scancerella with 29 points.
In goal, Brendan Sullivan has seen the majority of time in net for the Wildcats. He finished the season with a 13-7-1 record, a 2.60 goals-against average and .919 save percentage.
"When you cut the field from over 200 teams down to just 16 everyone is going to be good and they are no exception," said Mayes when asked about the two teams.
The final team in the pool is a familiar face for the Thunder, having already faced off with them twice this season. Toledo was ranked fifth in the final southeast regional rankings but earned a bid to the tournament with an upset win over Cincinnati in the regional tournament final. The Rockets average over five goals a game and give up just under four per game.
Ian Rapp leads the team with 37 goals, while Zach Felser leads the team with 56 points and 31 assists. In goal, Alex Woolley leads the way with a 3.57 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage. But Brendan Duff leads the way with eight wins in net.
In their previous two meetings, the Thunder came out on top both times. First, they met on the Rockets home ice and Trine came away with the 6-2 victory. Then in Angola, Trine held off a late charge by Toledo to win 7-6.
"They are a skilled team," says Mayes, "But they have a tendency to try to pull teams into the muck. We have to stay out of foul trouble and play our game."
Trine will begin pool play on Friday, March 9, when they face off with New Hampshire at 8:30 p.m. On Saturday, March 10 they will take on Toledo at 8 p.m. They will finish off with a game against Northern Arizona at 5 p.m.