By Max Liebel
NIAGARA UNIVERSITY N.Y. – If you had told any Atlantic Hockey fan before the season started that the Purple Eagles would knock off Canisius and Air Force in back-to-back playoff series, they would’ve said you’re crazy. Rightfully so, as Air Force and Canisius were ranked first and second respectively in this years Atlantic Hockey Association Preseason Coaches Poll, and NU was ranked last.
Even at the end of the season it was unclear what kind of team was going to show up in postseason play. What we got however, has been one of the most exciting postseason runs in NU Hockey history.
The team had an up and down season finishing 16-18-5 overall and 11-12-5 in conference play. Lead by the likes of F Ludwig Stenland, who lead all point scorers with 41 points on the year, and D Noah Delmas, who was right behind him with 40 points. Goalie Brian Wilson finished the year with a .907 save percentage and a 14-13-5 record in net.
The Purple Eagles had shown it had the talent to make a run but found themselves usually splitting series with conference opponents in close games. Because of this, the Purple Eagles finished as a 6th seed and drew Canisius in the first round of the Atlantic conference tournament. The team defeated them 2-1 in a fantastic best of three series that featured a 5-4 victory in double overtime.
After defeating Canisius, the team headed to Colorado to take on the fourth-seeded Air Force team. The Purple Eagles successfully swept Air Force by taking an OT victory in game one, and a securing a 5-4 victory in regulation in game two to complete the sweep.
The Purple Eagles have made a run that, regardless of the outcome of this weekend’s games, any fan can be proud of. Every game has been exciting and full of energy, keeping both players and fans on the edge of their seats. Win or lose NU has put the other team in the Atlantic on notice for the foreseeable future and created an phenomenal buzz around campus.