FGCU hockey claims first ACHA DII title in school history
Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Updated: Friday, March 23, 2012 19:03
When the FGCU Hockey Team saw its semifinal opponent in the DII ACHA National Championships was Michigan State, they couldn’t help but feel a sense of deja vu.
MSU, after all, was the team that knocked FGCU out in the championships last year in a heartbreaker. This year’s round proved much different, as FGCU dominated in a 5-2 triumph.
At the beginning of the year, captain and eventual tournament MVP Mike Lendino said, “Every year has been disappointing so far because we expect to win a national championship.”
WATCH A VIDEO OF THE TEAM CELEBRATING HERE. Video courtesy of Wes Kirk, a senior majoring in accounting.
The team is disappointed no more. The FGCU Hockey Club, after going undefeated in pool play and beating nemesis MSU in the semifinals, completed their quest for a national championship with a 4-2 victory over last year’s champ, the Grand Valley State Lakers.
The game was tight throughout, with several enormous swings of momentum. Early on, Grand Valley was in constant attack mode, with nearly 10 shots on goal in the first 10 minutes of action.
FGCU appeared to be on its heels early, but a quick timeout led to the Eagles’ drawing first blood when junior Jake Coyle netted a shot to make it 1-0. The Eagles took that score to the first intermission, protecting the lead until a devastating momentum swing with roughly four minutes to play in the second period.
In a 15-second span, Grand Valley State claimed first a power play goal followed by another wrist shot to take a 2-1 lead that sucked all the life out of FGCU’s home crowd at Germain Arena.
Following the second intermission, FGCU came out attacking, drawing a penalty on Grand Valley State very early in the period and picking up a quick power play goal.
That would follow with another goal to take the lead several minutes later, then the exclamation point by Lendino with an empty-netter with less than a minute to play sending the partisan crowd into a frenzy.
“We’ve waited for this moment all year,” said defenseman Nick Allega, who delivered and received several huge hits throughout the contest. “I couldn’t be happier for all the seniors. This team has worked its tail off to make it here.”
Goalie Ryan Lynch, except for the chaotic 15 seconds in the second period, was strong in the net, making save after save.
FGCU claims the first national championship in its 10-year existence, beginning as a small DIII club and evolving into two teams, one in DII and another in DIII, playing in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA).
Coach Bob Brinkworth has led the coaching staff since the club’s inception, leading this year’s edition to a club record 35 wins and his first championship.