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2014 National Tournament Preview
FGCU is Focused and Prepared for Nationals beginning March 21
March 10, 2014 by Jill Himmelfarb
The Florida Gulf Coast University hockey team is working hard in preparations for the American Collegiate Hockey
Association’s National Tournament hosted by Northeastern University in Marlborough, Mass. beginning March 21.
FGCU is ranked as the No. 1 seed in its pool for the tournament and will face three teams in pool play for three
days to determine whether the team will move forward to the semi-finals and then finals March 24 and 25. The
teams in FGCU’s pool are the Lindenwood University Lions (No. 2 in Central region), the Utah State Aggies (No. 3
in the West region) and the New York University Violets (No. 4 in the Northeast region).
FGCU ended the regular season as the top seed in the Southeast region, clinching an automatic berth to the national tournament, with a record of 26-
2-1. The Eagles’ starting goalies Tyler Tracy and Mike Reed have excellent records heading into the tournament. Tracy finished the season 15-0 with
a 1.79 GAA. Reed finished the season 10-2-1 with a 2.67 GAA. The team’s captain, Dan Echeverri, was the Eagles’ point leader for the season ending
with 100 points total from 44 goals and 56 assists.
“We’ve been doing a lot of off-ice and physical conditioning. We’ve passed the part of the season now which was a marathon, and we’re bearing down
for this week which is going to be a sprint,” Tracy said. “So we have to be in top shape, and make sure we’re ready to go for those five days. We’re in
a tough bracket. We’ve done work scouting who we play against, and what kind of systems they run. We know they’re all good hockey teams, so we
have to play solid hockey right back.”
FGCU will begin play at 11:40 a.m. on March 21 against NYU. The Violets’ regular season ended with a record of 19-3-2. Then they beat Endicott
College and University of Connecticut in the regional tournament to win their way into the nationals. NYU’s starting goalie, Samuel Daley, is 8-4-1 with
a 2.36 GAA. The Violets’ second keeper, Chris Tennekoon, is 7-0-1 with a 2.56 GAA. NYU’s third keeper only played two games in the season, and he
ended with a record of 2-0 and a 2.00 GAA. The top point-holders for NYU, Niko Masotta and Dakota Richardson, have 35 and 33 points from the
regular season and regionals. Richardson has almost four times as many penalty minutes for the season than Masotta. The Violets have a few players
with a high number of penalty minutes for the season, but the team as a whole is more disciplined than the other teams in FGCU’s pool, including the
Eagles. FGCU will need to remain wary against a team that doesn’t retaliate easy, or take many penalties. The opportunity to capitalize on the
powerplay may be much slimmer against NYU than other teams the Eagles have played during the season.
"Our coaches have talked to us about the strategies teams may use to try to beat us. We're such a fast team, and I'm sure opponents know we have a
high-powered offense — not too many teams will be able to skate with us,” said FGCU alternate captain Anthony Yezek. “Our players are mentioning
how we need to play smarter in the defensive zone, so that has obviously been on our minds in practice. There is no doubt that we will be ready to
play. The time off and just the fact that it's nationals is plenty of motivation to come out flying the first shift. Other than that, we won't change a thing. It
has worked for us all year so we're going to stick to our game. We've all been playing hockey long enough to know what this means, and we know how
to play in these kind of games. It's a matter of execution from here on out and just wanting it the most.”
At 12:20 p.m. March 22, the Eagles will face the Utah State Aggies. The Aggies ended the regular season 24-7-3. Utah State beat the University of
Denver and Boise State in the regional tournament to secure its spot at nationals. The Aggies’ have two starting goalies—Bryce Scherschel and
Austin Willenborg. The Aggies split games between the two goalies, similar to what FGCU does with Tracy and Reed. Scherschel ended with a record
of 7-7-1 with a GAA of 2.67. Willenborg ended with a record of 8-3-2 and a 2.84 GAA. Utah’s third goalie, Keagan McHenry, is 7-1 with a 2.10 GAA.
The Aggies’ top point-holders, Riley Orr and Cooper Limb, have 60 and 54 points respectively. However, Orr has 56 penalty minutes for the season,
and Limb has 82. Utah has several players with very high numbers for penalty minutes—five Aggies each have more than any of FGCU’s players. This
game, FGCU will need to bring a strong powerplay system to capitalize on opportunities. The guys are going to need to keep their heads cool when it
comes to retaliation and other ways the Aggies may try to draw penalties on them.
“We’ve been working out every day—running with parachutes, just trying to stay in shape. We’re having five practices before heading to nationals.
Then, Thursday afternoon (March 20), we’ll have a good practice when we get there, on Friday the show starts,” Said alternate captain Kevin Zipkin.
“Honestly, we’re expecting every team to come out and want to win nationals. We have a couple guys on the team who have done it before, and we’re
leading by example. But I think everyone going into it just wants it. Everyone’s hungry. We have to treat every team as if it’s the national championship
team, and play every game like it’s the national championship game.”
In the final game of pool play, at 3:10 p.m. March 23, the Eagles will face the Lindenwood Lions. The Lions also clinched an automatic berth to the
national tournament with their season ending 27-7-1. Lindenwood’s starting goalie, Tim Craig, is 14-3-1 with a 3.05 GAA. Their second keeper, Cody
Karpinski, is 6-3 with a 2.56 GAA. The Lions top scorer, John Mulligan, has 51 points for the season with 29 goals and 22 assists. Brenden Church
runs a close second in points with a total of 47 from 17 goals and 30 assists. As far as penalty minutes and other team stats, Lindenwood’s style of
play is most similar to FGCU and other teams they’ve faced during the season, such as Liberty University. The Eagles are going to need to be
cautious going into this game. They need to play strong in the defensive zone, keeping the Lions away from the net. They also need to come out
strong, pushing hard in the offensive zone, and making smart plays.
Some of the challenges for the Eagles are going to be keeping their composure and staying disciplined on the ice. Giving the other teams an extra-
man advantage is going to be crucial in the tournament. They will need to remain wary, and capitalize on any powerplay advantage they get against
the teams they will face. Another challenge that the Eagles have dealt with during the season is playing the entire game. Starting slow or gaining a
lead and slowing down are both dangerous areas that FGCU will have to avoid during the tournament. The teams they will be playing are most-likely
coming into the tournament with the same hunger and desire that the Eagles are. One period that the Eagles fail to bring their best game onto the ice
can determine the game. The team knows what they need to bring every day, and they are preparing accordingly. The Eagles will not face any of the
teams they’ve played during the season until possibly facing Liberty University in the championship game.
“We’re having five practices next week to prepare for nationals. Everyone is chomping at the bit,” Said head coach Bob Brinkworth. “We’ve been
scouting the teams, and will plan on watching what we can of the teams that we are going to face, with the exception of our first game against NYU.
The guys have worked hard in practice to stay in the condition that they’ve been in all season. We’re also in a good position because we now have an
entirely healthy team.”
FGCU fans can come watch the D2 Eagles in the tournament in Massachusetts. The website for the national tournament can be viewed at 2014 ACHA
Division II National Tournament. This site has information on the teams competing, the schedule of the games and a link to travel directions—including
driving directions, airports and hotel accommodations. The website has a page for admission prices of single day and tournament passes, as well as
information about the New England Sports Center. Also, for those who can’t travel to watch the “Freezing Eagles” live, fans can link to the live web
feed of the games through fasthockey.com. Enjoy the tournament. Go Eagles, protect the nest!