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AAU College Hockey Nationals Recap

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By: Danny Baum

College Hockey South was well-represented at the National Championships this past week, and the conference was indeed represented well. All 18 College Hockey South teams that were invited to West Chester, Pennsylvania, won at least one game. Of the eight teams that advanced to their respective division’s championship, six were College Hockey South teams. 


Who ever said hockey was better in the North?

Division 1

The puck dropped first for Division 1 where 16 teams across four pools began group play. 


The Auburn Tigers didn’t quite have the Nationals showing they were hoping for, but they did give a few top teams a scare. The Tigers scored first in all three of their games including an early 2-0 lead on eventual Group C winner and National Runner-Up Buffalo. However, Auburn could only pull off a win in one of their three games, a 7-4 win over Quinnipiac.


The Frozen Tide of Alabama may lay claim to the upset of the tournament when they knocked off defending National Champion Binghamton in their opening game. The Tide couldn’t capitalize on this momentum though, as they split their final two games. Alabama can take pride in a second-place finish despite being the lowest-ranked team in the group.

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Group A was the lone Division 1 pool with two CHS teams: the Georgia Bulldogs and the Tampa Spartans. Both teams dominated their first two games, setting up a win-or-go-home game in the group finale. Though it was closer than the CHS tournament final between the two teams, Tampa prevailed again with a 3-2 win.


The newly named “cardiac Cocks” stole the show the first few days of Nationals with a pair of dramatic overtime wins in the group stage to advance to the semifinals. South Carolina followed up their two overtime thrillers with a multi-goal comeback victory over the Tampa Spartans in the semifinals. 


The Gamecocks finished off their magical run by grinding out a 4-1 win over the Buffalo Bulls in the National Championship Game. In their final three games, South Carolina beat number two Niagara, number one Tampa, and number six Buffalo. John Riggins was named the tournament’s most valuable player after scoring ten points in five games for the Gamecocks. 


Riggins scored the game-winning goal in South Carolina’s first game as well as in the National Championship.


The Women’s division was limited to just three teams due to travel issues, with the Tampa Spartans as the lone College Hockey South team. 


Unfortunately for the Spartans, they weren’t able to produce at their usual potent rate. Coming into Nationals, Tampa was averaging over 10 goals per game. But in the three games they played, the Spartans could only muster eight total goals.


Tampa was able to advance to the Championship game, where they fell to Paul Smith’s College, 4-2.


Division 2


Nine College Hockey South teams were invited to Nationals for the Division 2 tournament, and five advanced to the playoff round.


Vanderbilt wasn’t so lucky though, as star goalie Andrew Shearson couldn’t carry the Commodores into the quarterfinals. Shearson performed brilliantly and gave Vanderbilt a chance to win in each of their games, even though the Commodores allowed 42 shots per game. Vanderbilt finished 1-2 and placed third in Pool E.


The Nationals' nightmare continued for the University of Tampa in Division 2 group play. The proud hockey program produced three teams that received invites to West Chester but posted a combined 4-5 record. The Division 2 Spartans won their first game over SUNY Brockport but then lost consecutive games to Union College and Tennessee.


Central Florida found out that there is no such thing as a meaningless group play game in their tournament opener against Alabama-Huntsville. The Knights outshot their opponent 53-20 but couldn’t score a single goal, losing 2-0. UCF split their final two games and finished third behind Alabama-Huntsville who advanced to the quarterfinals.


Embry-Riddle gave their in-state rival Florida Atlantic quite the scare in their March 9 meeting. The Eagles overcame a 2-0 third-period deficit to tie the game against the top-ranked Owls. A late power-play goal by Florida Atlantic spoiled the upset, and Embry-Riddle finished 1-2.


The momentum from Clemson’s Cinderella run to the College Hockey South tournament final continued in group play for the Tigers. Clemson dominated the two top seeds in their group and edged out a tight 3-2 win over Vanderbilt to win Pool E. The clock finally struck midnight in the quarterfinals against High Point, where Clemson lost 6-4.


On the back of the aforementioned 53-save shutout by Cameron Crawford against UCF, Alabama-Huntsville advanced to the playoff round as a wildcard team. The Chargers put the “wild” in wildcard in their quarterfinal matchup against Florida when they raced out to a 4-1 lead through two periods. The Gators stormed back with five unanswered goals to stun Alabama-Huntsville and send them home with a crushing loss.

Tennessee suffered a similar demoralizing playoff loss due to a blown lead. The Volunteers looked to pair their Conference Championship with a National Championship and were two wins away from pulling it off. Tennessee scored the first two goals of their semifinal game against Florida Atlantic but eventually lost 4-3. Tennessee forward Mitchell Spranklin scored nine goals in the Vols’ five games, which was tied for first in the tournament.


The number one team in the rankings, Florida Atlantic, proved their ranking right by winning their first five games of the tournament to advance to the National Championship. The Owls were without their third-leading scorer David Israel, who was out due to injury. Israel’s absence was felt in the Championship game against Florida when Florida Atlantic was doubled up 8-4. 


The path to redemption for the Florida Gators ended with a National Championship. 


The Gators went from embarrassment to elation following their upset quarterfinal loss in the College Hockey South tournament. Florida squandered a three-goal lead to Clemson in a disappointing 4-3 loss. In a truly poetic turnaround, Florida engineered their own three-goal comeback in the quarterfinal win against Alabama-Huntsville.


The Gators went a perfect 6-0 and scored 47 goals along the way. Florida’s Michael McCoy led the tournament with 15 points and was tied for the lead with nine goals.


Division 3


The Division 3 portion of the tournament was the last to begin but it finished in resounding fashion.


Kennesaw State shared a pool with the second-ranked Florida Southern Mocs. The Mocs eliminated the Owls in the semifinals of the College Hockey South tournament in a bitterly contested game. 


Kennesaw State may have found its kryptonite after the Mocs came from behind to eliminate them again, this time in the final game of group play. The Owls finished with a 1-1-1 record.


While Florida Southern may be Kennesaw State’s kryptonite, there’s always a bigger fish. 


The Mocs won three of their first four games and advanced to the National Championship Game. In those first four games, Michael Woll scored five goals and totaled 12 points. In the Championship Game though, Florida Southern was dismantled by Miami, 10-0.


The Miami Hurricanes completed their postseason dominance by winning all five games at Nationals. Miami finished a perfect 8-0 in the postseason winning those games by a combined 48 goals. Elian Estulin led all Division 3 scorers with eight goals and 12 points in five games.


A true undisputed champion.


Congratulations to South Carolina, Paul Smith’s College, Florida and Miami for winning the National Championship!


ABOUT College Hockey South: Founded in 2008, College Hockey South is a 29-school, 46 team intercollegiate hockey conference spanning seven southeastern U.S. states that competes in AAU College Hockey. College Hockey South is a 501(c)3 not for profit organization.

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