Club hockey headed to nationals for first time in team history

The Marquette men’s club hockey team is headed to its first national tournament in team history.

After going 1-1 in the Mid-American Collegiate Hockey Association conference playoffs, the Golden Eagles went undefeated in the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division-III Pacific Division regional tournament.

The Golden Eagles finished first in the MACHA Silver Division, which consisted of programs such as Northwestern, two Robert Morris teams and Northern Illinois. With a season record of  27-4-5, the team received a second seed for the playoffs.

The Golden Eagles played Bradley and forced the Braves into overtime. During the extra period, Marquette was able to slip one past the goaltender, and the Golden Eagles won 2-1. The next day the team faced off against the Missouri State Bears and eventually fell 4-3.

Junior Dominic Zanfardino, Jr., the team’s leading scorer with 51 points, said the team was excited to be a second seed but just couldn’t get the chances it needed.

“We really didn’t get the bounces,” Zanfardino said. “We felt like we should have won that game, but the pucks didn’t go our way.”

The Golden Eagles traveled to Peoria, Ill., for the ACHA Pacific Division regional tournament and were the top-ranked team. They again faced Bradley and this time went to a second overtime.

In the second overtime, captain Will Jurgensen chipped the puck out of the zone, and Sam Nader picked up the puck.  Nader deked through the defenseman’s legs and beat the Bradley goaltender to give the Golden Eagles the win.

“After that Bradley game, I just knew we’d go on,” Zanfardino said.

The second game was against rival Robert Morris-Peoria. Down 2-1 with five minutes left, Zarfandino wrapped around the net and slid the puck past the Eagles goaltender, forcing the game into overtime.

Eight minutes into the extra period, Ryan Zanon crashed the net after a shot and poked the puck in to send Marquette to nationals.

Jurgensen said he gives a lot of credit to Zanon’s line for being one of the best lines in the RMU-Peoria game.

“They were probably the best line of the game,” Jurgensen said. “They were grinding it out the whole game, and that’s how they scored the goal.”

Zanfardino said making it out of the Pacific Division was a goal for the team all season long.

“We’ve faced a lot of adversity this season,” Zanfardino said. “We beat Bradley in double overtime and then knocked off our rival in the playoffs in overtime. … It feels great (to go to nationals). Everyone’s super excited.”

Jurgensen agreed, saying the team was always playing to make it to nationals.

“We never really lost sight of that goal,” Jurgensen said. “The whole season was a grind to get us where we wanted to go.”

When Marquette heads to nationals, the Golden Eagles will be in Pool C, paired up against Davenport, Kennesaw State and State University of New York-Maritime.  The championships will be held in Springfield, Mo., the home of Missouri State, in March.

Jurgensen said the competition is going to be tough, but the Golden Eagles can make some noise in the national tournament.

“We just have to fine-tune our game,” Jurgensen said. “We have to focus on being a better team, because we have to be at our best to beat those teams. … If we play like we can, we can show we deserve to be there.”

Zanfardino agreed, saying the team cannot be complacent by making it out of the Pacific Division.

“We can’t be satisfied with just making it,” Zanfardino said. “We have to push the envelope even further … the sky’s the limit.”