By: Jack Loennecker, Layout Editor
The William Paterson University Ice Hockey team is making another appearance in the ACHA Tournament.
The Pioneers are one of 16 division II teams competing in the tournament, which will be in Columbus, Ohio starting March 15. Head coach Joe Balance is looking forward to the opportunity.
“Nationals are always competitive and a great atmosphere,” Ballance said. “It takes a strong effort to get through your pool to advance.”
The squad is rolling into the tournament hot. WPU is ranked No. 1 in the Northeast region with a record of 18-3-3. But the Pioneers aren’t the only team to look out for in the tournament coach Ballance noted that teams like Grand Valley State and the other two teams that end up in their pool will provide tough competition for them.
This is familiar territory for squad, marking the Pioneers’ seventh appearance in eight years in the ACHA tournament under head coach Joe Ballance, and their fourth appearance in a row. In 2014 the team finished twelfth, while in 2015 and 2016 they finished fifth. The Pioneers have yet to win the whole tournament but they are looking to change that this year. Coach Ballance said the team’s mindset going in is “to play our best and win.”
The group definitely has the talent. Leading the Pioneers in points is junior DJ Sabato with 34 points. Right behind Sabato is junior James Karp with 29 and senior James Bobb with 27. Jordan Hulahan leads the team in the net with nine wins, with Gary Schoeppler contributing six of his own.
Though there are 16 teams in the Division II tournament, the ACHA tournament will have around 80 teams total from Divisions I, II and III for men and Divisions I and II for women.
All games of the tournament will be at the OhioHealth Chiller Ice Rinks and the OhioHealth Ice Haus at Nationwide Arena. The first games of the tournament will take place from March 15 to 17 with the semifinals on Saturday, March 18, and the National Championship game will be on Sunday, March 19.