(Story first published by The Springfield Student)
For the first time in the history of Springfield College Ice Hockey, the team earned a bid into the Atlantic Regionals bracket of the ACHA tournament.
Springfield, who assumes the eighth seed, will travel down to West Chester, Penn. and play their first game of the tournament against No. 5 Fordham University on March 9.
“We worked for it all year,” captain Andrew Schmidt said. “We wanted that as our goal and we kind of thought that we blew it after [the conference tournament]. But then we heard that we were in and we like, let’s go for it.”
Just a couple weeks earlier, each player and coach thought their season had come to a close. For some, they thought that their careers on the ice were over. A year removed from a Northeast Collegiate Hockey Association (NECHA) title, the Pride were back in the semifinals, but lost to Colby-Sawyer.
“I think all the seniors thought that was the last game that we ever played and it was a tough way to go out, for sure,” assistant captain Jackson Maxwell said.
Over a four year span, the seniors and graduate students spent their energy not for recognition, but for a band of brothers and their dedication to the game.
“In the final 10 minutes, we were all over them. [We] hit multiple posts and just didn’t execute the opportunities that were presented to us,” assistant coach Andrew Abraham said. “It was one of those games where we could not get a bounce.”
For the crew of players that had thought their career was over, they reflected on their accomplishments wearing the jersey. The Pride entered that game 12-4 overall. Walking away from that game with one more loss could have meant the end, but it wasn’t.
After a weekend of reflection, the feelings of an end to the largest chapter in their lives set in. “It sounded like it was pretty much [over],” Schmidt said.
Then, they received a call from their head coach, George Johnson. From that call, Springfield received the miraculous news.
“I think that we all thought that if we won the tournament again, we were going to be in anyway,” assistant captain Jackson Maxwell said.
After winning Springfield College’s first two conference championships and secured their first-ever regional tournament bid, the coaching staff found comfort in the groundwork that had been laid to create a culture within the program.
“When I entered campus as a freshman player there were only 14 guys on our team and now, six years later, we have a full team with three coaches and two managers,” Abraham added. “It’s been an amazing transition into coaching for me and I’m beyond blessed to be a part of this program. I cannot wait to see what the next program ‘first’ will be.”
Headlining those 14 men is a solid first-line attacking crew comprised of Liam Whitman, Marc Steele, and John Danahey. Whitman leads the Pride with 22 points on the season while Steele and Danahey follow suit with 18 and 16, respectively.
Following their game against Fordham, a win would secure their place in the regional championship and two victories would send them to Dallas, TX for a chance to compete for the National Championship. The Pride would have to take down Ramapo, a team that they lost to previously this season.
The Pride have split their record in the 2018-19 regular season campaign — owning a record of 6-2 at both away and home contests. However, what may be good news for Springfield, is that they bring to the table a slightly larger goal differential in away matches.