William Paterson Men’s Ice Hockey to Play at ACHA Nationals

The Pioneers men's ice hockey team will be the number one seed for Nationals Pool A.

Courtesy+of+http%3A%2F%2Fwww.midlandathletics.com

Courtesy of http://www.midlandathletics.com

John Fiorino, Entertainment Editor

After a stellar regular season (17-3-2), the William Paterson University Pioneers men’s ice hockey team has qualified for the ACHA Men’s Division II National Tournament held in Columbus, Ohio.

The Pioneers clinched a spot at Nationals thanks to the automatic bid, which is awarded to the top two teams in each region: Northeast, Southeast, Central and West. William Paterson and New York University were the one and two seeds respectively in the Northeast Region. The other way teams can find their way to Nationals is by winning their regional tournament. Pioneers Head Coach, Joe Ballance, clarifies how the rest of the bracket is filled out.

“The top two teams go to Nationals from each region, teams 3-12 play in regionals and the two remaining teams from each regional tournament make up the other eight teams,” Ballance said. “So you have eight auto-bid teams and eight regional teams.”

William Paterson will begin play in Nationals Pool A with three matchups in a round robin style format. On Wednesday, March 15 at 8 p.m., the Pioneers will face off against Ohio University. They then faceoff against the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on March 16 at 7:45 p.m. Finally, they wrap up the opening round against Grand Valley State University on St. Patrick’s Day at 8 p.m. All round robin games will be held at the Chiller Dublin Ice Arena in Dublin, Ohio.  The Ice Haus will host the final four and championship. Pools were chose at random, and the pools take one seed from each of the four regions.

“Our pool was Northeast #1, which was us, Central #2 which was GVSU, West #3, which was UNLV through regionals, and Southeast #4 which was Ohio,” Ballance said. “Ohio made it through Southeast regionals as a #7 seed so they represent the Southeast.”

All the opponents in William Paterson’s pool will be tough ones. The offensive style by each opponent suggests it could be a high scoring round-robin. However, the Pioneers could have something that might get them over the edge. Their experience.

Under Ballance’s tenure, the Pioneers have been to Nationals seven out of eight years and three straight Nationals appearances including this campaign.

“Most of them know what the environment is like, experience is extremely important,” Ballance said. “I think this group knows what it needs to do to succeed. We as coaches stay on them to stay sharp and hungry, but they understand and know what it takes to win.”

Similar to that of playoff experience at the NHL level, Nationals appearances and knowing what it takes to win will go a long way. Not only do the upperclassmen continue to grow, it will also allow the freshmen to get their foot in the door for the future when they become the leaders.

The winners of Pools A and C will go against each other while the winners of Pools B and D follow the same routine to make the final four. The two winners of those matchups will then play for the National Championship. Ballance has been on the Nationals stage as both a coach, and as a goalie for Montclair State University, but has yet to take the championship home.

“It would be a dream accomplishment,” Ballance said.

All of the Nationals games will be available for free here via an online stream. Men’s Division II will start with Keene State College against Liberty University at 10:45 a.m. on Wednesday, March 15.