By Art Chill
DALLAS, TX – It took the Ramapo College Ice Hockey program just four short years to make its first appearance in the ACHA National Championship. After escaping elimination in the Atlantic Regional playoffs, the Roadrunners hopped on American Airlines Flight 1182 on March 25 bound for Dallas to play in Nationals. Four teams from the four regions of the country, Atlantic, Pacific, North, and South faced off to determine the ACHA National Champion. The likes of Michigan, Nebraska, Kansas and Air Force were present. As the third seed of the Atlantic Region, the Roadrunners drew the second seed from the other three regions: University of South Florida from the South; University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee from the Pacific (geographic oddity); and Sault College (pronounced Sue) from Ontario, Canada representing the North.
In the opener against USF, Ramapo was down just 3-2 starting the third but the Bulls’ depth proved too must for the Roadrunners. USF scored four unanswered goals en route to a 7-2 victory. The second game against Sault proved to be a very strange game. The Cougars comprised of Ontario Junior League players should have not been allowed to participate in the D3 championship. They were a level above all the teams in the tournament. Their intention from the outset was to be a D2 team but ACHA regulations required them to play another year in D3. The other astonishing thing is why is a Canadian team allowed to play in the American Collegiate Hockey Association. However, let’s get to the game. The larger, faster and more physical Sault team totally dominated the game from the opening faceoff. They took a 4-0 lead into the first intermission outshooting Ramapo 28-3 At one time the shots-on-goals were 18-0. The Roadrunners did not let down and caught the Cougars by surprise and out scored them 3-2 in the second period. The score was now 6-3 after two. Even thought Sault scored the first goal of the third, Ramapo came back with two more, cutting the score to 7-5 mid-way through the third. The Roadrunners even chased Sault’s number one goaltender. However, at that point, Sault became even more physical and easily poured in four more goals. Final score was 11-5. The Cougars outshot the Roadrunners 66-22. The astounding thing about Ramapo scoring five goals against Sault was that Sault played four other games and gave up a total of four goals against their other three opponents. Sault eventually went on to win the D3 National championship in a cakewalk. Ramapo’s final game was against the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The Roadrunners were pretty banged up from their game the day before against Sault but played competitively. The score was 2-2 after two. Ramapo scored early in the third period to take a 3-2 lead. The Panthers tied the game mid-way through the period and scored the heart-breaking losing goal came with just 16 second left in regulation time. The Panthers scored an empty net goal just six seconds later. The Roadrunners dropped the final game 5-3. Freshman Eddie Dahdah scored six of Ramapo’s 9 goals. He scored two goals in each of the three games. Sean Gordon in net faced a total of 156 shots (52 per game) in three games stopping 134 shots (45 per game).
Although the Roadrunners did not make it out of the pool round, they gained invaluable experience on the national stage. With only one player graduating, Keith Henning, and extensive recruiting, there should be no reason why Ramapo should not return to Nationals next season. The team’s final record ends up 17-8-1-1. Another banner year for the Roadrunners.