D3 hockey ends record setting season

Next years tournament will be hosted in Grand Rapids.

After boasting an impressive 34-2-4 record this season, the division three hockey club team lost an overtime thriller to Florida Gulf Coast in the ACHA National Championship semifinals on Friday, March 13.

The team went into the National Championship tournament in Pelham, Ala. as the number one seed in the north region and also held one of the best records in the ACHA. They headed into the tournament with over ten days rest after a 6-1 loss to Hope College.

The tournament took place over the course of five consecutive days starting on Tuesday. There were 16 teams in four pools, with Oakland being the number one seed in Pool D. One of the difficult aspects of the tournament was the scheduling as the team had to play multiple games in consecutive games.

“Four consecutive games in four days is definitely a challenge, but our team was certainly well conditioned and that’s what we prepared for,” Senior co-captain Alex Zakucia said. “It was more of being prepared every day for that one game, and we were prepared every day, we just did not get the result we wanted.”

The club defeated the University of Mississippi 7-4 on Tuesday in their first match-up in the tournament. Ole Miss scored the first goal and took a 1-0 lead going into the first intermission, but the Golden Grizzlies scored six goals in the second period and never looked back.

On Wednesday, Oakland faced the Metro State of Denver Roadrunners and pulled out a 6-5 overtime victory. Associate head coach Zack Warson said that the game was a hard fought battle and it helped the team re-focus for the rest of the tournament.  

The next day, the Golden Grizzlies cruised to a 4-0 victory over the California University of Pennsylvania Vulcans. Junior goalie Kyle Gagnon was able to stop all 31 shots he faced, while senior forward Jonathon Graham was one goal short of a hat trick.

The three victories secured a matchup with the Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles in the semifinals – a team that handed Oakland their only loss in regulation this season on Nov. 21.

The Eagles made an impressive comeback as they trailed Oakland 3-1 in the late stages of the third period. Two late FGCU goals forced OT and the Eagles scored the winning goal one minute into the extra period.

FGCU fell to Michigan State Spartans 6-2 in the National Championship game on Saturday afternoon.

Following one of the most successful seasons in Oakland hockey history, the team will graduate 10 seniors.

They hope their National Championship tournament experience will help them next season when the tournament comes to Grand Rapids.

“It was an unbelievable season for it us and it was a season like I have never experienced,” Coach Warson said. “Anytime you can play in those national tournaments and in those do or die games, you take away experience from them. Our guys have got another year from playing in that and that will help them.”