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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 15, 2011
College Hockey Team Skates to National Championship
HOLLAND, MICH. -- The College of the Canyons hockey team has secured the one accolade not yet accounted for in its trophy case: an American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Men’s Division-III National Championship.
The Cougars -- a community college ice hockey team from Southern California -- are national champions after defeating tournament host Hope College 5-3 in the ACHA Division-III championship game on Saturday, March 12.
This is the program's first national championship and constitutes the first time a West Coast team, and only the second time a community college team, has won an ACHA national championship on any level.
“I am proud about what Cougar Hockey Pride has achieved based on the positive attitude they bring to the ice each and every day AND from where they have come,” said Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook, chancellor of the Santa Clarita Community College District and College of the Canyons.
Hockey is not an intercollegiate sport in California community colleges. But that did not deter Jim Schrage, the team’s general manager and the college's vice president of facilities planning, operations and construction, from forming a club team in 2001. He formed a club and required its members to meet the same academic standards as those athletes who play on Commission on Athletics (COA) intercollegiate teams.
As a club and not an intercollegiate team, the college district could not fund the sport since campus clubs are required to generate their own funding.
“Jim Schrage did not let that stop him,” stressed Dr. Van Hook. “He got busy and raised the money every year to buy uniforms, fund travel, buy equipment and pay for time on the ice.”
Competition in the ACHA level is not solely against other community colleges, since most don’t have hockey clubs. In search of competition, College of the Canyons over the years has played and beaten many established teams from four-year colleges and universities. That has only made them better.
“This group thrives on competition because they take risks, are courageous, are committed and have a fundamental understanding of what being on a team means,” said Dr. Van Hook.
“Thanks to Jim Schrage and an outstanding coaching staff, College of the Canyons established not only a hockey club, “stressed Dr. Van Hook, “but provided an opportunity for an amazing number of students to continue with their education when, without hockey, they might otherwise have chosen not to.”
“At the beginning of the season we said ‘this is the year,’ ” said Schrage. “We knew it would be a battle, but we believed if the kids played their game, no one would be able to keep up with us.”
Tied at 1-1 at the end of the first period of the championship game, the Cougars opened a 4-1 second-period advantage and ultimately took control of the game for good.
“We played three games and an overtime period in 29 hours,” Schrage said in reference to a tournament schedule that saw the Cougars play a game Saturday morning, before taking the ice for the championship game later that afternoon. “But we never got nervous or changed our game plan. These kids just know how to play.”
Earlier in the day, the Cougars eked out a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over California University of Pennsylvania to advance to the tournament’s championship game. Scoreless until the third period, Canyons found itself trailing 1-0 with just a few minutes left.
“After they scored that first goal, there was a fire in our eyes that no one had ever seen before,” said Cougar defenseman Michael Richmond. “We were going to do whatever it took to score that goal and tie the game.”
Canyons eventually tied the game at 1-1 with less than two minutes to go, before eventually emerging from the overtime period with the win.
“From there we went and had a great lunch and came back ready to win a national championship," added Richmond.
Canyons goaltender Michael McGrath earned the tournament’s MVP award and was named to the All-Tournament First Team along with Canyons forward Brian Voogt, who scored two goals in the championship game.
As a club sport, the Cougars primarily face off against teams from surrounding four-year colleges and universities. In fact, Canyons was the only community college included in the 16-team tournament bracket.
College of the Canyons was also the only team in the 400-plus member, three-division ACHA to finish the regular season with an undefeated record.
In addition to its 2011 national championship, College of the Canyons has won 53 regular-season games, 15 playoff games and back-to-back-to-back Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA) Adams Cups over the last three seasons.
“This championship brings respect to West Coast hockey,” Schrage said. “Being from California, we were the underdogs. There was lots of trash talking going on, and we certainly had our share of detractors, but there has never been a champion on the West Coast, so this is really exciting.”
For more information about the College of the Canyons hockey team or to view a season schedule and team statistics, visit www.canyonshockey.com.