Club hockey falls in championship game, sees a bright future
The Seton Hall club hockey team capped off its season on Sunday, Feb. 22 falling 3-2 to Westchester University in the Colonial States College Hockey Conference championship game.
After a scoreless first, West Chester opened up the scoring two minutes into the second period to break the scoreless tie, eventually exploding for three goals in the period. The Pirates added a pair of third period goals, in the closing minutes of the third period, but were unable to find the equalizer.
The loss closes out the season for the team that went 5-5-1 in conference play this season, but took the conference by surprise when they advanced to the championships after a 6-5 overtime win against undefeated Millersville on Friday, Feb. 20.
Graduate student Gavin Ingster scored just 27 seconds into the extra period to complete the hat trick and send the Pirates to the championship game versus West Chester.
Millersville entered the playoff meeting undefeated in conference play and earning a bye along into the second round.
Thanks to three power play goals, the Pirates entered the third period leading Millersville 3-1. In the third, Millersville would cut the deficit to just one early. Ingster would score just 2:04 minutes later to regain the two-goal lead before Millersville scored a trio of goals to take a 5-4 lead.
Then with 51 seconds remaining in the game, senior Tom Davies scored an unassisted goal to even the game at five. The momentum from the late goal fueled the Pirates as Ingster scored seconds into overtime to shock the number-one seeded team in the conference.
“We knew if we just hung in there, they were going to get frustrated and we’ll find our opportunity and we did,” first-year head coach Gary Biggs said.
Senior and co-captain Jeff Kuper had a goal and two assists in Friday’s stunner.
“No one really expected us, the other teams at least, to do much in the playoffs,” Kuper said. “We didn’t quit on each other and that’s the biggest part.”
Carl Meixsell added an assist on the first of three goals by Ingster that gave the blue and white a 2-1 lead early in the second period. The senior co-captain said the team really started to come together in the final weeks of the regular season.
“Towards the end of the year, we started to really come together a team,” Meixsell said. “Once everyone bought into the system, we started to play better and it definitely showed in the last weekend.”
Meixsell, who will graduate in May, but has a year of eligibility remaining as per the conference rules that allow five years of eligibility, so long as the student is registered in at least 12 credits, sees a bright future ahead for the team.
“We ended up farther than any other Seton Hall team had gone,” he said. “With all the new faces, players and coaches alike, they can only go higher from here.”
Biggs echoed his captain’s thoughts about the future ahead for Hall hockey.
“We have a good core of defense coming back that’s really going to step up for us next year,” Biggs said.
That core consists of the likes of assistant captain Bryan Nagy, Andrew Cameron and Charlie Tobias.
Up front, the Hall will return with some impressive talent in the form of Rob Harris and Charlie Mule. Mule, who had two goals on the weekend took the conference by storm in his freshman season, leading the team in goals (16) and points (27) on the season, impressing some of the upperclassmen along the way.
“He’s probably the best pure goal-scorer I’ve ever played with,” Kuper said.
Also returning is goaltender Zack Peras. The junior netminder made 40 saves on 41 shots in the team’s overtime win versus Millersville before being forced to exit with an injury. Peras returned to action two nights later to help his team play a competitive championship game.
“He was probably the M.V.P. of this weekend,” Kuper said. “Without him, we probably don’t even get past (Princeton).”
Meixsell added that Peras was one of the standouts on the weekend.
“He did a phenomenal job and made some really key saves,” he said.
Biggs is happy to have Peras back in the fold for next season and marveled at his efforts on the weekend, playing strong and battling through injury.
“He was incredible down the stretch for us,” he said.
Biggs expects to return with the same staff next season including assistant coaches Scott Rothlisberger and Colin Mayberry.
The club hockey team will host an alumni game at South Mountain Arena in West Orange, N.J., on March 28 at 4 p.m.