To say that the last two years have come with some adversity for the Niagara University ACHA D1 hockey team is an understatement. Rewind the clock to March of 2019, when the team found itself crowned the NECHL champions, earning a bid to the ACHA National Championships in Dallas, Texas. The team was riding an all-time high, with flights and hotels booked for its chance to compete to be national champions. And then COVID sweeps the globe, effectively shutting down all tournaments for the foreseeable future, slamming the breaks on one of the most successful seasons in team history.
The team entered the 2020-2021 academic year knowing that it would not be able to compete in any games or tournaments due to the ongoing pandemic. Mix in the fact that the team was going through a coaching change due to the retirement of longtime head coach Larry Brzeczkowski, who was and still is admired greatly amongst his players and peers in the ACHA and at Niagara. Still, the team maintained continuity, practicing as if it was still competing, knowing it would get its chance again in 2021-2022.
Then, tragedy struck during the spring 2021 semester with the sudden passing of one of the key cogs and heartbeat of the team, Patrick Romano. Patrick’s loss was devastating and had a profound impact on the lives of everyone who was a part of the team. The team rallied together and dedicated its entire 2021-2022 season to Patrick and his mother, Charlene Romano. Everything that this team does is with the intention to win it all for Patty!
Fast forward to Feb. 27, 2022. After completing its most successful regular season in team history, with a 28-4-1 record, the team found itself playing for another chance to become NECHL champions, facing off against rival Oswego State. This game did not disappoint--it came down to a game-winning goal by David Christopher, with only 56 seconds left in the third period to put the Purple Eagles up 3-2. This incredible milestone capped off two years that had so much adversity, it may have crippled other teams. Instead, and in spite of this adversity, not only are the Purple Eagles the 2021-2022 NECHL Champions, heading to St. Louis, Mo., to compete for the ACHA National Championship, the team can also say it has the NECHL Coach of the Year (Tom Mooradian), the NECHL Player of the Year and ACHA D1 Scoring Leader (David Christopher), and the ACHA D1 Leading Goaltender (Bennett Oxborough). Not to mention several 1st team, 2nd team and honorable mention all-league players.
Our Purple Eagles will be traveling to St. Louis to compete for the National Championship March 10-15. Congratulations to all players, coaches, parents, and support staff! Please keep the team in your thoughts and prayers, wishing the players safe travels and good luck as they look to bring the trophy back to Monteagle Ridge. There is no question that Patty is smiling down from somewhere. #One9.