Columbia Defeats STAC
Manhattan, New York—
Mark Rassell and Zack Marcil
A return for the ages. Many college hockey teams come back from Christmas break and experience a sluggish start to the second semester. But as legendary USA Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks once said “Not this team, Not tonight.” The Columbia University College Hockey Lions, recently ranked in the top 10 of the ACHA Division III, were thrown into the fire with their first game back from the break, as they played number 11 ranked STAC. This game had huge implications on the rankings for regional and national championship playoff tournaments. Bruce Baker being the front runner for the MCHC Coach of the Year award summed up this game to his players as eloquently as only he could: “Big one tonight fellas.”
The game was, from the beginning, lining up to be an all-timer. STAC and CUCH hockey had established a well-documented rivalry for a variety of reasons, but none more notable than first year defenseman Weston Goodman being severely snubbed for an MCHC Defensive Player of the Month award in favor of STAC goaltender Carl Lorenz. Fans all over the globe, and specifically the northeastern United States, were irate over the MCHC’s decision to award Lorenz, especially after Quant Corp CEO and CUCH hockey Head Sabermetrician Jeremy Coste provided Marcil with a plethora of underlying statistics that displayed the breathtaking dominance of Goodman’s first season. However, there was a game to play, and it had to be put in the past, and every member of the Lions knew that.
“It could be, and probably is, the single biggest game in the history of the MCHC and arguably the ACHA tonight, and we need to f****n rally the troops and be ready to go.” That’s what Forward Jack Winkler had to say when we asked him about the importance of the game against STAC.
Not only players, but it seemed like all citizens of the Atlantic Northeast were experiencing a certain level of excitement prior to the game. MCHC super-fan Frankie Graziano from Staten Island told me in an exclusive interview that he took the subway— taking the A train, transferring to the C train, realizing his mistake and re-routing to the 1 train, ripping up the 1 train to capacity at Van Cortland Park 242nd St, and, after getting off the train, picking up a nearby CitiBike and pedalling the final 17 miles—just for a chance to watch the Lions at the Ice Hutch. He said his dislocated elbow acquired after a horrible fall on mile 12 was “worth it” for the chance to see Alex Killips start between the pipes for the Lions.
Alex Killips did not disappoint Frankie. The sophomore engineering major was simply the second best player on the ice, behind Chris Mendell Jr. who won the Lions’ prized ‘Digger of the Game’ award. Mendell Jr. had the game of his life, coming up with key blocked shots down the stretch. Many attendees agree that Mendell’s performance must have been attributed to the motivational good luck message he received from Vegas Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves. The message was played on the video screen during the game’s first TV timeout and it seemed to spark Mendell from then on. Killips, who did not receive a motivational good luck video from Vegas Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves, was as solid as a Columbia Lions goalie has been in ages, stopping 35 of 37 shots, and leading the Lions to a 5-2 win. After the game Killips was asked about his performance and he said the following: “Well Mark and Longshadow Jr, simply put, I did my job tonight. My defensemen and Mendell blocked a ton of shots for me, and I got in the way of the ones that they missed. It was truly a team defensive effort out there.”
In critical games like these, you need your best players to be your best players and your leaders to lead. Captain Andrew “Andy” Dunn decided to do both, leading the offensive charge with a hat trick. In other statistical elements Ben “Astro” Vermette led all players on both teams with 7 line changes during the back-check. A seemingly proud Astro reminded players in the locker room after the game that changing on the back check is a fool-proof way to avoid being on the ice for an opposing goal against and receiving a minus. Astro considers himself a high IQ hockey player.
The game itself lived up to expectations. Columbia’s usually high powered offense was somewhat stifled by STAC’s shut down defensive play that has made them successful so far this year.
Columbia still managed to put up 5 goals on Carl Lorenz and additionally only allowed 2 goals against, a season low. The coaching battle was a story in itself. Bruce Baker knew defense was going to be the story of the night, and his hunch to wear the brand new silver three piece suit, and to start Killips between the pipes, definitely paid off. Baker also used home ice to his advantage as he matched his lines to perfection, shutting down any hope of a late offensive push by STAC.
The following numbers profoundly highlighted Columbia’s ability to allow a season low in goals:
Weston Goodman: 7.991 Jorgenson Coefficient (his 4th best of the season)
Chris Mendell Jr.: 79.2% Shot Share (his best of the season)
Arieh Soferr: 8.9 Adjusted Pennyson ratio (his 2nd best of the season)
Alex Killips: .997 Danger Adjusted Save Percentage (best of his career)
Ben Vermette: 8 High IQ Plays (his 3rd best of the season)
Scott Slater: 1.069 Grit Factor (the highest of any ACHA game in 12 years)
(All statistics courtesy of Jeremy Coste)
Simply put, you are going to be hard pressed to find a more well-rounded effort from CUCH hockey this season. Another local Super-fan who would not tell us his name from Bristol, Connecticut had this to say about his beloved CUCH hockey:
“What an elegant display of grace and charisma from the Columbia University - a private Ivy League research University in New York City. Formerly known as King’s College, established in 1754 on the grounds of Trinity Church, then moved to its current spot in Morningside Heights in 1896 and renamed Columbia University, one of the nine colonial colleges founded before the Declaration of Independence, seven of which belong to the Ivy League - Lions hockey team. It was probably the best hockey game ever played at the Ice Hutch and I’ve been to all of them since it has existed as an arena. Go Lions go. Go Lions go. Go Lions go.”
With the win over STAC, Columbia officially clinched an MCHC playoff spot, their first in five years. The announced attendance for the game was 18, 19 if you include all the viewers watching via live stream.
Mark Rassell and Zack Marcil are the Junior and Senior Reporter for the Columbia University Men’s Hockey team. Mark was recently repromoted from Assistant Junior Reporter back to full time Junior Reporter. Zack is entirely unsure why the anonymous super-fan from Connecticut quoted a portion of the Columbia University Wikipedia page. You can find them on Twitter at @Mark_Rassell and @longshadowjr