Marquette Club Hockey: A season to remember

When a poker player goes all in, it’s about taking a big chance to claim a high reward at the risk of losing it all.

Down 2-1 late in the third period in the Mid Atlantic Collegiate Hockey Association’s Championship game, the Marquette men’s hockey club went all in, pulling their goalie to get an extra attacker on the ice in hopes of sending the game into overtime.

The Golden Eagles ended up conceding an empty-net goal to Robert Morris and losing 3-1, but those on the Marquette roster believe their team gained much more than it lost.

“Getting to that game was big for our club,” said Will Jurgensen, junior and team captain. “All year our club has grown in status around campus through our Facebook and Twitter profiles, and we were able to string together a lot of wins to back up the talk and make a name for ourselves.”

The Golden Eagles cruised through the regular season, finishing with a 20-3-1 record and securing the No. 1 seed for the MACHA North Division. Sophomore forward Kevin Dolan said the season wasn’t without its rough moments, but that the Golden Eagles dealt with its issues quicker than anyone had anticipated.

“I had high expectations for our team, and we exceeded them,” Dolan said. “We brought in a new coach and a few new freshmen so I expected that there would be some growing pains. They were there during the first six games, but then we went on to win 17 of our last 18.”

In the playoffs Marquette knocked out Missouri State 4-2 in the quarterfinals and defeated McHenry College 5-4 in the semifinals, earning the right to square off against Robert Morris, the No. 1 seed in the MACHA South Division, in the championship.

Jurgensen said his team was well aware of the scale of the game going in, and that it was the first time the Golden Eagles would have been considered underdogs all season.

“That championship game was probably one of our best played games of the season,” Jurgensen said. “We had watched (Robert Morris) completely destroy their playoff competition first hand, and we knew that we would have to play our best hockey of the year to have a chance, and I think we came really close to that.”

Goaltender RJ Bennett, the team’s lone senior, said Robert Morris’ experience factored into the loss, but that Marquette’s youthful talent, on the other hand, gives the Golden Eagles the chance for a bright future.

“They were the more experienced team. They had a couple of guys who were 24 and 25 years old, and I’m the oldest player on our team at 22,” Bennett said. “The fact that we got so far this year with half of our team being new and that I’m the only player leaving this year gives them a great foundation. This was by far the most talented team I’ve been a part of.”

Bennett said that the team’s success along with its efforts at branding itself has increased its presence on campus in a big way.

“We had a lot more presence on and off the ice this season,” Bennett said. “I feel that we are the most recognized we have ever been. It’s almost like being a basketball player with strangers coming up to us and congratulating us and wishing us well.”

Jurgensen said even off-campus interest in the club has reached an unprecedented  level after Marquette’s big run.

“The number of emails I’ve already received from kids who are interested in playing hockey here is unbelievable,” Jurgensen said. “We’ve gotten emails from a lot of other teams as well who have seen what we are able to do and want us to play them. It’s huge for us because we weren’t really anything special before this season.”