All-Tournament Team Returns
For the first time since 1987 the Division III championships announced an all-tournament team. Neumann freshman goaltender Ross MacKinnon was named most outstanding player and was joined on the all-tournament team by three of his teammates. The all-tournament team was:
F, Jesse Cole, sr., Neumann
F, Matt Ward, jr., Neumann
F, Patrick Dynan, jr., Gustavus Adolphus
D, Charles Paterson, jr., Neumann
D, Andrew Brennan, sr., Hobart
G, Ross MacKinnon, fr., Neumann
Most outstanding player: MacKinnon
MacKinnon was no doubt the star of the weekend. The freshman netminder turned back 60 of 61 shots in Neumann’s two games. It marked the second year in a row a goaltender has turned in a stellar championships performance, as between MacKinnon and St. Norbert’s Kyle Jones a year ago, the winning goalies have allowed a single goal over that span.
MacKinnon, despite being a freshman on a senior-heavy team, quickly earned the respect and trust of his teammates this season.
“He’s a freshman goalie but he’s shown up for us all year,” said Knights’ forward Jesse Cole. “A lot of it has to do with him because we have so much confidence in him. He deserves everything he gets out of this and we’re very proud of him.”
Speaking to his performance in the championship game, in which he stopped 21 of 22 shots, MacKinnon said:
[i1r]”I don’t know if it was not getting much sleep last night or not getting a good warmup today, it just took me a little bit to get into the game…but then I settled into a groove and felt pretty good after that.”
When asked if sleep was going to be an issue tonight, MacKinnon’s light-hearted reply was a simple one:
In another jovial moment, MacKinnon even took a shot at himself for allowing the one goal he did on the weekend – a shot from behind the goal that banked in off his chest.
“It didn’t really get by me, I put it in the net by myself,” he joked.
First Time’s the Charm
In only his first season at the helm, Neumann’s championship makes Knights’ head coach Dominick Dawes only the second person to ever win a Division III title as both a player and a head coach. It was only six years ago he won it as a player as he was a junior on Norwich’s 2003 championship team junior at Norwich when the Cadets won the 2003 national championship.
The only person to previously have accomplished this feat is current St. Norbert head coach Tim Coghlin. Coghlin was a senior defenseman and captained Wis.-Stevens Point to its first national title in 1989, and scored the title as coach with St. Norbert just last year.
“It’s a great accomplishment and it feels good,” he said of the unique claim to fame.
“But I have to thank [Neumann] for giving me the opportunity to lead these guys. I also have to thank [Norwich head coach Mike] McShane for dragging me to Norwich and having those teams he had back there.”
When it comes to winning his title in his first season, Dawes was quick to pass the credit down to those who came before him and built the Knights into a national power in less than a decade.
“This is tremendous and it’s obviously a great accomplishment,” explained Dawes. “But I was pretty fortunate to step into this group. No other [coach] has been fortunate enough to step into a group like this that had this much ability.”
“These guys had the ability when I got here. It was just a matter of coming together and doing it,” he added.
With a national championship in his pocket less than eight months into his head coaching career, Dawes has certainly set the bar high for himself and the Neumann program. Keeping the bar at the lofty heights it now sits at will be the next challenge for Dawes — especially considering the Knights will lose 14 players to graduation this spring.
“From here it’s going to be finding guys to replace this group,” he said regarding the near future. “It’s going to take some work because there are some pretty good players in this group, but we have to go find some players, replace these guys, and get back here.”
“These seniors are the guys who made us one of the best teams in the nation over the past couple seasons.”
For now, at least, the “one of the” can be dropped from his comment as the Dawes’ led Knights will forever be in the books as the best team of the 2009 season.
Rough Weekend for Lopes
As has been documented, Gustavus Adolphus senior netminder Matthew Lopes faced a long and arduous journey before landing at Gustavus Adolphus. Lopes ended up closing out his career with a rather painful weekend, and it had nothing to do with how he played or the fact the Gusties’ fantastic playoff run ended just a bit short of the ultimate goal.
After Stout’s opening goal in yesterday’s semifinal, Lopes hit the ice and remained there for several minutes, He eventually got up and finished the second period, but was replaced for the third and did not return to the Gusties’ bench.
“Last night I hyperextended my back and this morning it felt fine so I gave it a go.”
Despite feeling better this morning, Lopes was not the beneficiary of much luck as early in the title game he was run over by an attacking Neumann forward. He bounced up a bit quicker than he did yesterday and remained in the game. Despite the tough loss, Lopes managed to get a laugh out of the press room when asked about how his weekend went in a physical sense.
“Tonight I did get plowed into but fortunately it was just my head and not my back,” he joked.
The MIAC is often considered to be a much weaker league than its Western sister-conference, the NCHA. There is some merit it to this as the NCHA has traditionally fared quite well in its interlocking schedule with the MIAC. In fact, the NCHA was 46-17-2 overall against the MIAC this season.
Where the NCHA hasn’t fared so well as of late against the MIAC, however, is in the NCAA Tournament. A MIAC team has defeated a NCHA team in the tournament four of the past five years. St Thomas beat St. Norbert in 2005, Bethel beat River Falls in 2007, St. Thomas beat Stout last year, and Gustavus downed the top two NCHA teams, Superior and Stout, to reach this year’s final.
The Gusties are yet another example of what a waste of time it is to bicker about whether any conference is better than any other.
What the 19-11 Gusties do validate, however, is that there is currently more parity in Division III than ever before. After all, they were the third place MIAC team this season and were a beyond worthy national title game participant. It also goes to show that come NCAA tournament time, there are reasons the teams that are still playing are where they are, and anyone who thinks there isn’t an excellent team in the field is a fool.
Fans, Fans, Everywhere Fans
One entertaining aspect of a national championship event is that it brings fans from all over the country together. As a result, one will spot people sporting a variety of apparel representing the school they support.
This weekend in Lake Placid was no exception as a host of hockey-sponsoring instutions were represented by a wide array of fan apparel.
At last count, garbs toting the prominence of Neumann, Gustavus Adolphus, Hobart, Stout, Plattsburgh, Oswego, Stonehill, Norwich, Middlebury, Potsdam, Cortland, Stevens Point, River Falls, Utica, Michigan, Cornell, Maine, Alaska-Fairbanks, Wisconsin, Clarkson, Colgate, Boston College, St. Lawrence, Vermont and Denver were spotted.
With that diverse of a group of hockey fans all in one place at one time — how can one not love it?
Oh, and sorry guys, I tried quite hard but was unable to locate any RIT gear.
Last and Certainly Least
As some may recall, SUNYAC columnist and pretzel “aficionado” Russell Jaslow failed to try a hot pretzel at last years championships in Lake Placid. It was not a mistake he would make twice, as he finally scored a Lake Placid pretzel during an intermission of the championship game.
“It’s an excellent pretzel,” he judged. “It challenges Brockport’s but it isn’t quite that good. It’s certainly a pretzel worthy of a championship event, though.”
And just in case inquiring minds want to know, there was no cheese with this pretzel.
“If it’s good enough to eat, it doesn’t need cheese,” Jaslow insisted.