Published on March 4th, 2020 | by TLV News0
Ole Miss Hockey Wins First SECHC Championship
Ice Rebels fight for a spot in the national tournament
Hot on the heels of their first South Eastern Collegiate Hockey Conference Championship victory, the Ole Miss Ice Rebels are at it again, this time competing in the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s regional tournament on their way to the national championship tournament.
The University of Mississippi‘s club hockey team has been a competitive presence in the SECHC since its creation a decade ago, but this victory cements UM as one of the best places to play collegiate hockey in the country.
“First, it’s Ole Miss,” said Anthony Pellegrino, a senior center from Swansea, Illinois. “It sells itself. It has anything anyone going to college wants, so you get to be a student at a big college.
“There are guys on the team who could have played NCAA hockey, but those schools don’t have this kind of experience. We have the best of both worlds. We get to go to Ole Miss and we get to play competitive hockey.”
Funding a Tournament Run
The next big test for the Rebels comes against Florida Atlantic University in the ACHA single-elimination regional qualifying tournament March 7-8 in Wesley Chapel, Florida. The winning teams advance out of the regional bracket to the ACHA national tournament in Frisco, Texas.
Ole Miss club sports teams are student-run and student-led, meaning players are responsible for fundraising, public relations, organization, administration, budgeting and scheduling. The team travels to the Mid-South Ice House in Olive Branch for games and weekly practice.
The carpool to and from the arena have as much to do with how well the team plays as the practices themselves, said Gray Erwin, a junior defender from Nashville.
“We have to spend a lot of time together in the car,” he said. “That’s why we’re so close. We do everything together.”
To that end, the team is raising money to cover their tournament travel costs through GoFundMe. They hope to be able to fly to their upcoming tournaments instead of trying to find time to drive back and forth without missing class and while maintaining their academic eligibility.
A Fight from the Bottom
The Rebels’ rise to the top of the SECHC, however, wasn’t an easy one. Entering the Nashville tournament, the Rebels were the sixth seed (of eight teams). They began the tournament against third seed Florida Atlantic University, the same team they’ll face in the opening round of the ACHA regional.
While two FAU players were ranked top 10 in regular-season scoring, the Rebels’ freshman goalie, Ryan Troy, held the team to three goals. His efforts were enough to give Ole Miss the 5-3 advantage.
Troy went on to be named the tournament’s MVP.
Next, the Rebels defeated Auburn, a team that also achieved a first-round upset, with an overtime goal for a 2-1 final.
Finally, the Ice Rebels faced down the University of Arkansas, a perennial SECHC powerhouse, in the tournament’s final game.
Ole Miss began the third period down 1-0. The first Rebel goal finally came after the period’s third minute when Nate Sullivan scored on a deflection. Next, Cal Lavery scored the go-ahead goal halfway through the third. He scored another goal with 22 seconds left in the game to put a bow on the team’s 3-1 victory over Arkansas.
“I remember seeing the seconds coming off the clock and I was just smiling,” Pellegrino said. “As a senior, we had finally won the first championship.”
The team came close last year, but couldn’t win the final – starting as a second seed and finishing the tournament in second place.
“It was nice playing from behind this year because last year we were up 2-0 and Georgia scored four unanswered,” Erwin said.
The players said they were excited not only to bring home the first championship, but to do it in front of so many Ole Miss fans.
“A ton of alumni live in that area, and a bunch more traveled,” said Rebels assistant captain Kurt Lindhorst, a junior defender from Saint Charles, Missouri. “They came out and supported, and it’s as awesome to see how much it meant to the former players and fans that we got the job done as it was to win.”
The players weren’t the only ones who noticed the Rebel fan presence.
“The whole tournament was talking about our fans,” Pellegrino said. “They were by far the loudest and the craziest.”
By JB Clark