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NAU D-II back in national tournament, faces stacked group


Coming up March 15-17, Northern Arizona University’s Division II team will play in the ACHA National Tournament in Columbus, Ohio.


Northern Arizona will play in Pool D along with Miami (Ohio), Rensselaer Polytechnic and Lindenwood Belleville.

Miami is ranked sixth nationally and Lindenwood Belleville is No. 1.

“Everybody always jokes about a group of death,” said NAU director of hockey operations A.J. Fairchild.

The IceJacks open the tournament with Miami, but Fairchild said he and head coach Travis Johanson don’t see it as a negative, that with so many tough teams in their group, they could get through with a 2-1 record and goal differential.

Fairchild said beating Miami could show the country that the IceJacks mean business.

“We’re going to use our speed and we’re going to continue to be aggressive like we have all year, shut it down defensively like we have all year,” Fairchild said. “I feel like we’re strong in goal and our defense is improving tremendously and we have scoring on all four lines, especially the top three.”

The IceJacks (25-7-1) only lost two games to teams in their division this season.

Fairchild noted that NAU won’t be intimidated because they ended the regular season playing Division I top-10 Arizona State University, plus they scored an unlikely result between the regular season and Nationals, beating the Arizona Coyotes alumni team in a fundraiser game.

“Usually they come in and score like 15 goals on us,” Fairchild said. “We used our team speed and continued to work hard and we actually beat them 8-3. We never even got remotely close to beating them before.”

NAU also had a 14-game winning streak this season.

“We feel like we’re right there with everyone else and we’re going to give it a go,” Fairchild said. “A lot of it depends on that first game. I know one thing – the guys aren’t going to be intimidated by it. They’ll play their best hockey of the year and that’s all you can ask.”

— James Kelley

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