For the first time ever, Niagara University’s men’s club hockey team clinched an automatic bid to the American Collegiate Hockey Association Men’s Division I National Championships. The team learned late Wednesday night that it will take on the University of Central Oklahoma at 11:30 a.m. on March 1 to start the tournament, which will be held March 1-6 at Robert Morris University Illinois in Bensenville, Ill.
The Purple Eagles, ranked 19th in the country, clinched a playoff berth by beating Binghamton University last Saturday. They can lock up the first perfect record (16-0-0) in the history of the Northeast Collegiate Hockey League by defeating Oswego tomorrow. Over the course of the season, Niagara has outscored its league opponents by 86 goals.
“Congrats to Coach B, the players and the entire NU staff as they become the first team to clinch an NECHL auto-bid with a perfect record in league history,” stated Andy Gojdycz, commissioner of the NECHL. “We wish them the best of luck in representing the league in Chicago!”
“It is a great night for our program and for our university,” 16th-year coach Larry Brzeczkowski added after the game. “These guys should all be very proud of their accomplishments, what they did tonight and this year. It will probably take a few days to sink in, but we are going to enjoy it, and get back to work on Tuesday. One thing is for sure, we aren’t going to Bensenville to be tourists. This is a special group of guys, they earned it!”
Senior forward Marc Degiuilio scored 19 goals to lead the NECHL while junior forward Greg Cartwright paced the league in assists (27) and points (42). Senior goaltender Dane Wakefield mans the crease for Niagara.
The American Collegiate Hockey Association began as a men’s collegiate hockey organization for the 1991-1992 season. The ACHA currently includes five divisions with over 445 teams representing 49 states (all but Hawaii). The function of the ACHA is to support quality, unity and regulation of intercollegiate hockey programs in the United States. More information about the ACHA can be found at www.achahockey.org.