One point. One voter. One very angry bunch of hockey players.
That sums up the scenario and ensuing reaction last Sunday night into Monday, Feb. 11, as Temple missed the American Collegiate Hockey Association D-II Southeast Regional tournament for the second consecutive year, this time by a single point.
“The one point that we missed out by was due to one voter in the ranking committee having us one spot out,” coach Jerry Roberts said. “It literally came down to one person having us one spot out. That’s what that single point equates to.”
It also equated to the Owls, with a record of 17-12 overall and 5-5 in the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey Association North division.
In a rankings system in which the Top 2 teams get an automatic bye into the ACHA National tournament and teams No. 3-10 play in the Regional Tournament for a National Tournament bid, a select group of ACHA board members determines the regional rankings via monthly voting sessions.
The Top 10 teams with the lowest cumulative number of points make the ACHA postseason. Temple drew the 11th seed in the season’s final rankings with 95 points, finishing one point shy of the University of Maryland’s mark of 94.
“I was very surprised,” senior forward Chris Brennan said. “I was banking on getting in because of how we played in our last [regular season] weekend.”
“If we had beat [Rowan University on Feb. 8], we would’ve been in no matter what and we could’ve beaten [Monmouth University on Feb. 9] a little more with a couple more goals,” Brennan added. “But even with that, I think we should’ve made it.”
A 4-2 loss on the road to Maryland (8-8-2, 5-3 MACHA South) on Nov. 30 sticks out as one of the big influences on this season’s final regional rankings, senior forward Sean Nealis said.
“The one game that hurt us the most is the Maryland game,” Nealis said. “To me, that’s the biggest downfall of our season. If we had beaten them back then, we’re in the tournament with no questions asked.”
“The one time we played [Maryland], it was down at their rink,” senior forward and captain Jordan Lawrence said. “We got down there late, it was freezing [cold] and that’s just how I see it. I think overall, we’re a much deeper team than they are. We’re a better team and our record proves it. It just so happens that the people who decided didn’t feel that way.”
For the Owls, the regionals snub comes one year after finishing in the 11th spot in a forgettable 2011-12 season that saw the Owls finish with a 9-18 regular season record.
After turning in an improved 17-12 regular season mark this time around, the Owls having an 11th place ribbon to show for it once again does not sit well.
“It’s definitely frustrating to be 11th two years in a row,” Lawrence said. “I think our team was entirely different than last year, and I think our team was entirely better this year. We might have lost 18 or 20 games last year and we still came in 11th, as opposed to this year when we won 17 or 18 games and we still finished 11th. It’s frustrating.”
“You ask a ton of questions to yourself and what you could’ve done better in certain games,” Lawrence added. “[Getting to nationals] was our goal and when it’s taken away from you like that, obviously there’s a lot of anger and disappointment. You want to point the finger at other people. But we’ve accepted the fact that we didn’t do enough to convince people that we belonged there.”
In wake of missing the tournament, the Owls still participated in the MACHA conference tournament as the No. 4 seed in the MACHA North bracket, and faced No. 1 Penn State (23-4-1, 10-0 MACHA North) in the quarterfinal round. The Ice Lions were unbeaten in MACHA postseason play going into the matchup.
Though the Owls fell 3-1 to their division rival, they were still able to hang tough against one of the ACHA’s marquee D-II teams.
“Penn State is expected to come out of pool play in nationals, and we had them on the ropes for much of the game,” Nealis said. “They got a couple more bounces and that’s what it really came down to.”
“We were a couple of missed opportunities away from knocking the best team in the MACHA playoffs out,” Nealis added. “As far as losing goes, we all walked it with our heads up because that was probably our best game of the season.”
In the midst of a week to forget, the hard-fought loss to the conference’s best team allowed the Owls to bow out of 2012-13 with a heightened sense of pride, Roberts said.[blockquote who=”Jerry Roberts” what=”Coach”] Even though we didn’t have the outcome we wanted, they played their best game of the season at the very end. [/blockquote]
“Even though we didn’t have the outcome we wanted, they played their best game of the season at the very end of the season,” Roberts said. “With the roller coaster ride we’ve been on this year with all of the ups and downs, it was nice to be able to sit in that locker room after the game and have all the players look at each other in the eye and say ‘You know, we really wanted it tonight and we played really well.’”
“And maybe I’m looking for the silver lining in all of this, but there was a certain sense of pride that we had in that locker room that we haven’t been able to have at any point this season,” Roberts added. “I think it’s a great positive note to build on and get ourselves ready for next season.”
Andrew Parent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @daParent93.