This past weekend, the MIT Men’s Ice Hockey team captured its second consecutive Northeast Collegiate Hockey Association (NECHA) Championship in the American Conference Finals, capping off a storybook season with a heart-pounding overtime win. The Engineers successfully defended their 2010-2011 NECHA Cup victory, the first since MIT last won it in 2001.
This season, MIT finished with an overall record of 11-7 and earned themselves a second place seed out of eight teams in their conference. Dustin P. Kendrick G and co-captain Vladimir Sobes G, both in their fifth and final years with the team, finished second in NECHA in points and assists respectively. Co-captain Ernest I. Park ’12 also finished fourth in assists in NECHA as part of the American Conference’s strongest offense.
This regular season performance earned MIT a spot in the semifinals Friday night against Bates College, a long time rival and runner-up to MIT in 2011. The Engineers started the game off slow, giving up early goals to go down 2-0 after the first period. Showing tremendous character, the team rallied from the early deficit to tie the game at 2-2, with goals coming from Sean E. Burke ’13 and Gabriel V. Blanchet ’13. Goalie Jenna R. Klein ’15 supported from in net to keep Bates scoreless through the second.
The Engineers continued their onslaught in the third period, scoring two quick goals from Blanchet and Daniel J. Rankin ’13 to take the lead. Despite having a short bench, the Engineers staved off a heavy onslaught by Bates late in the third, surrendering a single goal with 30 seconds left and carrying the team to a hard-fought 4-3 victory.
This comeback win landed MIT in the finals against Westfield State University on Sunday afternoon. The atmosphere at Conway Arena in Nashua, NH was electric as dozens of dedicated MIT fans came to support their team opposite a large showing by the Westfield crowd.
Determined to get ahead early, the Engineers came out in full force from the start, taking a commanding 3-0 lead off of early goals by Blanchet, Michael Stephen Georgas G, and Blanchet again. Westfield, however, would not be kept down for long and scored a late first period goal as well as two in the second period to tie the game at three apiece. In net, Klein put on an outstanding performance while the Westfield State Owls kept the Engineers on their heels. Shutting the door in the third period, and narrowly missing several scoring chances, MIT took Westfield into overtime tied 3-3.
In one of the most high-pressure situations in all of sports — a sudden-death overtime to decide the league championship — MIT came through in dramatic fashion. Just two minutes in, Ernest Park picked up a rebound in front and shoveled the puck into the net. The Engineers stormed the ice as Ethan E. Peterson ’13 paraded Park in front of MIT’s fans.
Despite going through a tumultuous rebuilding period, the Men’s Ice Hockey club has established itself as a dominant force in NECHA and in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA), a nationwide sister league to the NCAA. Under the helm of second-year coach Dave Hunter, the team has pulled off successful fundraisers with the Boston Bruins, received coaching advice from NHL Hall of Famer Ron Francis, and continues to draw large crowds to its home games. The team welcomes the alumni and fans’ continued support as they build upon this success.
This NECHA Cup victory is dedicated to the player that inspires us all to persevere in hockey and in life — Michael J. Rosensweig ’11, who continues to make great strides in a long recovery from leukemia. Having his presence in the crowd on Sunday is our greatest reason to celebrate.