The Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU) club hockey team claimed the title of American Conference champions of the Northeast Collegiate Hockey Association (NECHA) in late February with a 4-2 victory over Southern New Hampshire University. The team finished with a regular season record of 11-1, the second best record in the 32-team NECHA.
Among the players was senior leader Joe Harvey of Southington, who majors in sport and leisure management. This championship marks the end of Harvey’s hockey club eligibility, as the forward is set to graduate this semester.
“The key to our success is the quality of our players,” said ECSU coach John Brancati in a ECSU press release. “They are dedicated and determined; they have the will to win.”
Eastern’s overall American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) record was 22-2-1, with more than half of their games played against teams outside of the NECHA. There are more than 400 collegiate teams nationwide in the ACHA.
“The team really gelled this year, culminating with their hard fought championship victory,” said Prof. Barbara Murdoch, the team’s faculty advisor, in the release. “My whole-hearted congratulations go to these fine young men and the coaching staff.”
Eastern’s team, which became an official NECHA member only two years ago, was ranked higher in the ACHA than any previous American Conference team.
“If we went into the regionals, we would have made noise,” Brancati said in the release. He explained that rankings for Division II in the ACHA are not based solely on record, but also on votes. Because Eastern’s team is new to the league, “No one knew who we were. My team had enough strength but not enough exposure to get votes.”
While the team may have lost its chance for further competition this season, word is spreading throughout the league about Eastern. “Toward the end of the season, a lot of people were reaching out, saying they want to play us next year,” Brancati said in the release. “That’s good for us because now people know who we are.”
Next year, should the team make the playoffs, its reputation will result in more votes, enabling them to be higher ranked and potentially reach the ACHA Northeast Region playoffs.
For Harvey, he will be remembered as a Pioneer, much like he did at Southington High School, as a member of the Blue Knight club team that made the transition into a varsity program. Harvey served as a top scorer and goalie during his high school career.