Wildcats, IceJacks, Lobos all qualify for ACHA Nationals
Hockey has its own version, and then some.
The NCAA Frozen Four tournament is scheduled April 5-7 in St. Paul, Minn. It will involve a 16-team single-elimination bracket. Selections will be announced March 18.
The American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA), which encompasses nearly 500 college and university-affiliated ice hockey programs in non-varsity play, got the jump on the Frozen Four by holding its national championship tournament March 8-18 in Columbus, Ohio.
Two teams from Arizona, plus one team each from Nevada and New Mexico, qualified to participate.
The University of Arizona and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas both competed in the Men’s Division 1 tier. Each advanced as far as the Sweet Sixteen round.
Northern Arizona University finished 1-2 in pool play to miss advancing to the semifinal playoff round in the Men’s Division 2 tier.
Meanwhile, the University of New Mexico is primed to face off its first postseason appearance by competing in the Men’s Division 3 tier.
This marks the second consecutive year the ACHA is holding all its division championships — Men’s Division 1, Men’s Division 2 and Men’s Division 3, along with Women’s Division I and II – in one location. The NAIA Hockey Division is also being held in Columbus, Ohio. The NAIA tournament is scheduled Thursday, March 15, to Saturday, March 17.
More than 75 teams and 1,600 players will compete in more than 100 games during the 2018 ACHA National Championships, which are hosted by the Greater Columbus Sports Commission and the Columbus Blue Jackets of the National Hockey League.
“The American Collegiate Hockey Association is looking forward to returning to Columbus and having all five of our divisions’ national championships in one location,” said Christopher Perry, interim executive director of the ACHA. “The Columbus Blue Jackets and the OhioHealth Chiller Ice Rinks have been incredible to work with to make this a very special event. The City of Columbus, along with the Greater Columbus Sports Commission, have also been great partners to provide such a historical and memorable experience for our student athletes.”
Last year marked the first time in ACHA history that players from top non-varsity intercollegiate hockey teams from across the country all competed together in one location. The 2017 ACHA National Championships generated approximately 3,000 hotel room nights and a direct economic impact of $8.1 million for the city of Columbus.
Games can be viewed on the ACHA YouTube page (YouTube: ACHA National Championship).
The ACHA Men’s Division 1 tournament is a 20 team, single-elimination format with the top 12 teams receiving a first-round bye
The Top 20 teams from the final ACHA Men’s D1 National Ranking are seeded No. 1 through No. 20. The regular season champion from each of the six qualified ACHA Men’s D1 leagues automatically qualified for the tournament.
UNLV received the No. 13 seed while the University of Arizona received the No. 16 seed.
Arizona is among five teams that did not qualify for last year’s national championship tournament while UNLV is in its first year as a Division 1 member.
Automatic qualifiers as league champions included defending national champion Central Oklahoma University from the Western Collegiate Hockey League, University of Buffalo from the Northeast Collegiate Hockey League, Adrian College from the Great Lakes Collegiate Hockey League, Liberty University from the Eastern States Collegiate Hockey League, Drexel from the Eastern Collegiate Hockey Association and the University of Pittsburgh from the College Hockey Mid-America.
Arizona, Central Oklahoma, Colorado and Missouri State comprise membership in the Western Collegiate Hockey League.
UNLV competed as an independent in 2017-18.
UNLV faced off the tournament with a 7-1 win over 20th-seeded Drexel University on March 8 as 10 players picked up points, including six with multi-point games. Cody Williams led the Skatin’ Rebels with four points on four assists while Viktor Brask scored two goals. Kameron Fink, Elijah Barriga, Basel Assaf and Jonah Pearson each collected one goal and one assist.
Goaltender Ben Griesbrecht stopped 20 of 21 shots to pick up the win.
Arizona defeated 17th-seeded Missouri State, 4-1, in another game on March 8 as the Wildcats received single goals from Josh Larson, Chris Westlund, Orion Olsen and Jake Dickison. Freshman standout Anthony Cusanelli had two assists.
Missouri State out-shot Arizona 30-16 but Wildcat goaltender Anthony Ciurro stopped 29 of the 30 shots to post the victory.
Both UNLV and Arizona met elimination in the Sweet Sixteen round in games played on March 9. Top-seeded Minot State defeated the Wildcats by a score of 5-1 while fourth-seeded Ohio University edged UNLV, 3-2, in overtime.
Raymond Rowe scored a power play goal at 10:56 of the second period to pull Arizona to within 2-1 on the scoreboard but Minot State tacked on an additional goal in the second period and added two more goals in the third period to eliminate the Wildcats, who were out-shot 37-20 in the game.
Tyler Griffith and Max Meyer picked up the assists on Rowe’s second period goal.
UNLV never led in the game against Ohio but did manage to tie the game twice and eventually force the game into overtime on a goal by regular season team scoring leader Joe Kaszupski at 9:10 of the third period.
The Skatin Rebels trailed 1-0 after the second period on a goal by the Bobcats’ Bryan Lubin. Williams leveled the score at a goal apiece when he faced off the third period with a goal, assisted by Barriga, at the 2:07 mark. Ohio went up 2-1 on a goal by Gabe Lampron at 7:29 before Kaszupski tied the game for a second time.
Lampron scored his second goal of the game at 7:03 of overtime to send Ohio on to the next round.
Ohio out-shot UNLV 38-28, with Giesbrecht making 35 saves. Pearson and Sean Plonksi drew the assists on Kaszupski’s goal.
UNLV closed out regular season play with a 21-9 record following a two-game sweep of Arizona – 5-3 on Feb. 23 and 3-1 on Feb. 24, with both games played at the City National Arena.
Kaszupski led the Skatin Rebels in regular season scoring with 35 points (18 goals, 17 assists) in 30 game appearances. Barriga finished a close second in team scoring with 34 points (21 goals, 13 assists) in 27 games. Kaszupski and Barriga each led the team with six power play goals. Kaszupski netted three game-winning goals during the season while Barriga scored two game-winning goals.
Other top contributors included Assaf with 28 points (three goals, 25 assists), Williams with 24 points (12 goals, 12 assists), Jake Saxe with 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists), Tristan Mayer with 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists), Fink with 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists), Zach Lawson with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists), Jonas Gordon with 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) and Pearson with 14 points (seven goals, seven assists).
Williams, Saxe, Mayer, Fink, Gordon and Brask each collected two game-winning goals.
Goaltenders Giesbrecht and Alex Feese each appeared in 14 games, with one shutout apiece. Giesbrecht turned in a 10-4 regular season record with a 2.21 goals-against average and .916 save percentage while Feese recorded a 9-3 regular season record with a 2.56 GAA and .908 save percentage.
The Wildcats entered the ACHA national championship tournament with an overall 23-11-0-1-2 record.
Regular season team leaders included Cusanelli with 51 points (31 goals, 20 assists), Justin Plumoff with 39 points (12 goals, 27 assists), Larson with 35 points (21 goals, 14 assists), Ethan Stahlhuth with 29 points (15 goals, 14 assists), Griffith with 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists) and Westlund with 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists).
Sean Ozment chipped in with 23 points (3 goals, 20 assists), Rowe with 22 points (3 goals, 19 assists), Olsen with 21 points (4 goals, 17 assists), Nick Zellmer with 21 points (4 goals, 17 assists), Trey Decker with 19 points (5 goals, 14 assists), Meyer with 17 points (5 goals, 12 assists), Justin Dingey with 16 points (8 goals, 8 assists), Robert Smythe with 12 points (9 goals, 3 assists), Griffin Dyne with 10 points (8 goals, 2 assists) and Dickison with 10 points (7 goals, 3 assists).
Cusanelli led the Wildcats with five game-winning goals while Plumoff, Larson and Griffith each had three game-winning goals. Cusanelli and Larson each led the team with six power play goals.
Goaltender Austin Wilson paced Arizona with a 12-7-0-1 record, 2.88 GAA and .908 save percentage. Ciurro posted an 8-4-1-1-2 record during the regular season with two shutouts, a 2.78 GAA and .904 save percentage.
Cusanelli finished 13th among ACHA point-leaders with 51 points and third with 31 goals despite missing nine games due to an ankle injury. He became the most decorated Wildcats in recent history after receiving postseason awards from the WCHL as the league’s most valuable player and rookie of the year. He was also voted a member of the league’s all-rookie team and branded with all-league first team honors. He also received the WCHL Sportsmanship Award.
Arizona State forward Austin Erlich received second team all-WCHL honors.
The ACHA Men’s Division 2 tournament faced off Friday, March 9, and closes with the championship game on Tuesday, March 13. The field features 16 teams from four regions: West (four teams), Central (four teams), Southeast (four teams) and Northeast (four teams).
Teams were divided into four pools. The tournament first consisted of pool play, with the top team from each division advancing to the semifinals.
Pool A assignments included Northern Arizona University (West 1), University of Toledo (Southeast 4), Trine University (Central 2) and University of New Hampshire (Northeast 3).
Pool B assignments included the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (Northeast 4), Lindenwood University (Central 3), Penn State University (Southeast 1) and Utah State University (West 2).
Pool C assignments included William Peateron University (Northeast 1), Florida Gulf Coast (Southeast 2), University of Northern Colorado (West 3) and Adrian College (Central 4).
Pool D assignments included Northeastern University (Northeastern 2), Aurora University (Central 1), University of Denver (West 4) and Liberty University (Southeast 3).
The semifinal round, to be played on Monday, March 12, pairs the top finishers in Pool A (University of New Hampshire) and Pool C (Florida Gulf Coast University) in one matchup and the top finishers in Pool B (Lindenwood University) and Pool D (Northeastern University) in another matchup.
Semifinal winners will play for the division championship.
Teams qualified for the national championship tournament in two phases. The top two teams in each divisional ranking advanced directly to the national tournament. The remaining eight teams qualified through four regional tournaments.
Teams ranked third through 12th competed in each regional tournament, with two teams advancing from each regional. Teams competed in a series of eight elimination games over three days.
Northern Arizona University (23-8-1) and Utah State (31-7-2) finished regular season play ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, among teams in the West Region and received byes to the national championship tournament.
The final rankings within the West Division featured the University of Northern Colorado (21-7-1) at No. 3, Williston State College (15-4-3) at No. 4, the University of Denver (18-10-2) at No. 5, Dakota College (9-4-3) at No. 6, MSU-Denver (12-14-2) at No. 7, University of Colorado (14-16-1) at No. 8, Grand Canyon University (15-13-3) at No. 9, Boise State University (22-5-1) at No. 10, Weber State University (15-17-2) at No. 11 and Arizona State University (17-15-0) at No. 12.
Brigham Young University (11-13-3), Colorado State University (6-21-3) and California State University-Northridge (16-12-0) rounded out the top 15 West Region rankings.
Northern Colorado and Denver advanced from the regional qualifying tournament held Feb. 22-24 at Weber State University in Orem, Utah.
Lucas Lomax led NAU in regular season scoring with 33 goals and 63 points. He notched five game-winning goals and three shorthanded goals. Max Mahood ranked second in team scoring with 29 goals and 49 points, with five game-winning goals and 13 power play goals.
Four players on the IceJacks topped 40 points during regular season play. Reise Kieffer accumulated 46 points on eight goals and 36 assists while Desmond Conley recorded 42 points on 22 goals and 20 assists.
Other top performers during the regular season included Tegan Harrington finished regular season play with 19 goals and 32 points, followed by Steven Thompson with 30 points (8 goals, 22 assists), Jordan Nolan with 29 points (8 goals, 21 assists), Malachi Bushey with 24 points (8 goals, 16 assists), Rayce Miller with 23 points (8 goals, 15 assists), Brendan Jester with 22 points (12 goals, 10 assists), Jacob Pascale with 22 points (1 goal, 21 assists) and Kristjan Toivola with 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists).
NAU took a well-rounded group into this year’s ACHA nationals. Twenty-two players on the roster recorded at least one point and 21 players scored at least one goal.
The IceJacks defeated Toledo, 2-1, to face off pool play at the national championship tournament. Zaven Bablouzian, assisted by Harrington and Pascale, put NAU in front, 1-0, on a goal at 2:17 of the second period while Miller, assisted by Harrington and Mahood, scored a power play goal at the 6:43 mark of the third period to push the IceJacks to a 2-0 lead.
Toledo’s Ryan Rapp scored at 15:01 of the third period to trim the NAU lead to 2-1.
The IceJacks out-shot Toledo 46-30. Joshua Nolan picked up the win between the pipes for NAU by stopping 29 of 30 shots (.967 save percentage).
NAU saw its round-robin record drop to 1-1 following a 6-5 loss to New Hampshire on March 10. The Wildcats scored five goals in the second period to lead 6-2. The IceJacks attempted a third period comeback with three goals but fell short despite posting a 47-38 edge in shots.
Pascale led NAU with one goal and two assists while Christopher Barrett, Thompson, Mahood and Toivola each scored single goals. Rayce Miller had two assists.
Joshua Nolan stopped 24 of 30 shots in 38:00 of net duty while Jaxson Gosnell stopped all eight shots he faced in 22:00 of work.
New Hampshire finished 2-for-5 on the powerplay while the IceJacks were 1-for-4.
NAU faced off against Indiana’s Trine University in its final pool game on March 11, losing 7-4 to finish 1-2 in pool play.
The IceJacks and Thunder exchanged first period goals for a 1-1 standoff. Mahood put NAU up 1-0 just 1:31 into the game but Trine’s Brandon Bornkamp scored a shorthanded goal at 13:00 to level the teams on the scoreboard.
The Thunder out-scored the IceJacks 4-1 in the middle period to take a 5-2 lead in the game. Toivola scored an unassisted goal at 9:16 of the third period to narrow the score to 5-3 but the Thunder countered with a power play goal by Brendan Werstine to make the score 6-3.
Bushey scored an even-strength goal at 12:22 to trim the NAU deficit to 6-4. But Bornkamp scored his second shorthanded goal of the game with 12 seconds to play in regulation to seal the win for Trine and eliminate the IceJacks from playoff contention.
Bornkamp led the Thunder with three goals and one assist. Beau Browning scored a shorthanded goal, assisted by Lomax, to account for NAU’s lone second-period tally.
Gosnell took the loss after surrendering three goals on 13 shots. Joshua Nolan allowed four goals on 17 shots.
The IceJacks finished with a 32-30 edge in shots but finished 0-for-5 with the man-advantage. The Thunder finished 2-for-6 on the power play.
Mahood (two goals, two assists) and Pascale (one goal, three assists) topped NAU in tournament scoring with four points each while Toivola (two goals, one assist) and Miller (one goal, two assists) each collected three points.
Thompson and Bablouzian each had one goal and one assist while Harrington contributed a pair of assists.
Joshua Nolan appeared in all three games for the IceJacks, registering a 1-1-0 record with a 5.12 GAA and .857 save percentage. Gosnell appeared in two games, posting a 0-1 record with a 3.53 GAA and .857 save percentage.
NAU was outscored 14-11 in the three games.
The ACHA Men’s Division 3 tournament is scheduled from Tuesday, March 13, to Saturday, March 17. The division features a 16-team pool-play format with the top team from each pool advancing to the single-elimination semifinals.
The top two-ranked teams from each of four regions received automatic berths in the national championship tournament field. The remaining eight teams were drawn from four regional qualifying tournaments held the weekend of Feb. 23-24.
Teams ranked third through 10th in their respective region competed in a regional qualifying tournament, with two teams advancing from single-elimination play.
New Mexico enters the ACHA national championship tournament with an impressive 20-4-1 record that included a season opening 11-game unbeaten streak.
This marks the first time in program history that the Lobos have qualified for postseason play.
Head coach Grant Harvey said while he felt his team had been overlooked in the past for inclusion in postseason play, he felt this season the team definitely warranted inclusion.
“It’s meaningful in a sentimental value, man,” Harvey told The Daily Lobo newspaper. “This is basically 10 years in the making — ever since I was a UNM captain and then stuck around to be the coach.”
New Mexico, the No. 2 qualifier from the Pacific Region, is assigned in Pool B along with Quinnipiac University (the fourth qualifier from the Atlantic Region), University of Central Florida (third qualifier from the South Region) and Michigan State University (the top qualifier from the North Region).
Pool A assignments include George Mason University (third qualifier from the Atlantic Region), the Georgia Institute of Technology (fourth qualifier from the South Region), Air Force Academy (top qualifier from the Pacific Region) and Central Michigan University (second qualifier from the North Region).
Pool C assignments include Farmingdale State College (top qualifier from the Atlantic Region), University of Georgia (second qualifier from the South Region), University of Nebraska (second qualifier from the Pacific Region) and Oakland University (fourth qualifier from the North Region).
Pool D assignments include Fairfield University (second qualifier from the Atlantic Region), Florida Gulf Coast University (top qualifier from the South Region), University of Arkansas (fourth qualifier from the Pacific Region) and Hope College (third qualifier from the North Region).
New Mexico will face off pool play March 13 against the University of Central Florida (16-11-2) and next test Quinnipiac University (7-5-3) on March 14. The Lobos will close out pool play with a March 15 date against Michigan State University (25-4).
The semifinals will pit the top teams from Pool A and Pool D against one another and the top teams from Pool B and Pool C.
Air Force Academy (19-2-2) topped the final regular season top 10 regional poll, followed by Colorado Mesa University (15-8-1-1), University of Nebraska (27-8-1), University of Arkansas (22-6-0), Colorado School of Mines (10-9-2-2), University of Wisconsin-Platteville (20-7-1-1), University of Kansas (20-4-0-1), Northern Arizona University (9-8-0-2) and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (16-7-0-3).
Nebraska and Arkansas advanced from the regional qualifying tournament in Lincoln, Neb.
New Mexico recorded five or more goals in 18 of its 25 regular season games and posted six shutouts.
Austin Short led the Lobos in regular season scoring with 46 points (28 goals, 18 assists) in 22 game appearances, followed by Jaxson Farnholtz with 41 points (19 goals, 22 assists) in 22 games. Nate Taglialegami ranked third in team scoring with 39 points (16 goals, 23 assists) while Graeme Chiasson ranked fourth on the team with 36 points (12 goals, 24 assists).
Makenzie Smith ranked fifth with 31 points (16 goals, 15 assists), followed by Chance Shanks with 29 points (8 goals, 21 assists), Logan Coyler with 28 points (4 goals, 24 points) and Jarrod Ronquillo with 24 points (16 goals, 8 assists).
Short led the team with five game-winning goals while Ronquillo had three game-winning goals during regular season play.
James Bostian played the majority of minutes between the pipes, posting a 9-2-0 record in 12 games with three shutouts, a 2.70 GAA and .900 save percentage. Antonio Santiago posted a 5-1-0 record in eight games with a 3.47 GAA and .770 save percentage.
Nathan Russell appeared in four games with a 3-1-0 record, 2.75 GAA and .880 save percentage.
Game results will be posted on the UNM Lobo Hockey team page (unmlobohockey.com).
The ACHA Women’s Division I and Division II tournaments are scheduled from Wednesday, March 14, to Sunday, March 18. The NAIA tournament is scheduled from Thursday, March 15, to Saturday, March 17.
Despite zipping to an impressive 16-1-2 start, San Diego State University’s ACHA M2 team did not qualify for the regional playoff tournament. The Aztecs finished the season 17-7-2, posting a 1-6-0 record in their final seven regular season games.
Included in the downturn at the end of the season were four lopsided losses to NAU and two setbacks to Cal State Long Beach.
SDSU ventured to Flagstaff for a two-game series Jan. 19-20 and lost by scores of 6-2 and 9-1. The Aztecs hosted the IceJacks for two games on Feb. 2-3 at the Poway Ice Arena, losing by scores of 9-1 and 6-0.
SDSU lost, 6-3, to Long Beach State Jan. 27 at Lakewood Ice and lost, 6-5, to the Forty-Niners in a game played Feb. 9 at the Bay Harbor rink as part of the season-ending West Coast Hockey Conference championship tournament..
CSU Northridge won this year’s conference championship title with a 4-0 win over Long Beach State; SDSU topped CSU Fullerton, 8-5, in the third place game.
Hayden Bolls finished as SDSU’s 2017-18 season scoring leader with 31 goals and 54 points in 26 games.
Eli Berengut led Northridge in regular season scoring with 29 goals and 45 points while Luke Miller topped Long Beach State with 20 goals and 34 points.
Bolls and Berengut, along with Loyola Marymount University’s Matt Boente were named as All-WCHC First Team forwards. First Team All-WCHC defensemen included SDSU’s Josh Nobida and Fullerton’s Dylan Kammer. Northridge’s Vincent Sepe earned recognition as the All-WCHC First Team Goaltender.
Second Team All-WCHC forwards included Long Beach’s Miller, SDSU’s Anthony Mata and Chapman University’s Jake Greif. Second Team All-WCHC defensemen included Marymount’s Greg Bennett and Northridge’s Levi Bolls. SDSU goaltender Austin Hathcoat received Second Team All-WCHC honors.
The WCHC consists of six teams: Northridge, Long Beach State, SDSU, Fullerton, Loyola Marymount and Chapman.
Arizona State University’s NCAA Division I team finished its 2017-18 season with an 8-21-5 record while playing as an independent. ASU is just one of two NCAA Division I programs located in the Sun Belt, the other being Alabama-Huntsville.
NAU photos/Eric J. Fowler
— Phillip Brents
(March 12, 2018)