Today: CU vs. Montclair State, 2 p.m.
Thursday: CU vs. Grand Valley State, 11 a.m.
Friday: CU vs. Miami of Ohio, 10 a.m.
Saturday: Semifinals, 6:15 a.m. and 6:30 a.m.
Championship, 4 p.m.
Broadcast: For $20, the entire tournament can be viewed live at fasthockey.com. Games can also be purchased individually.
More info: For the complete schedule, visit achanationals.com/schedule.html.
It’s been seven years since the University of Colorado men’s club hockey team brought home a national championship.
After finishing the regular season with a 21-8 record and snaring the No. 1 overall seed in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) national tournament, hopes and confidence are high in the Buffs’ locker room.
Sixteen teams, divided into four pools of four, will participate in the ACHA men’s Division II tournament, scheduled to begin today at the International Skating Centre in Simsbury, Conn.
CU has already faced a handful of the participating teams this season, including Colorado State, Florida Gulf Coast and Northern Colorado.
“There’s definitely some familiarity from prior games, and maybe even a little built up revenge,” said senior forward Scott Portnoy. “What better opportunity to seek revenge than at nationals?”
The Buffs haven’t played a game in almost a month, but their recent practices have been “intense,” Portnoy said.
“We know what it takes for us to get going, and we just have to follow through,” he said.
As one of the more experienced players on the team, goaltender Kevin Litinsky has made a conscious effort to ensure that everyone is fired up and mentally prepared.
“I think everybody’s on the same page,” Litinsky said. “I’ve been there before, and I know what to expect, so this year I’ve been working on getting the underclassmen prepared to play. It’s important that everyone wants it.”
In their final few games of the regular season, the Buffs struggled somewhat to find the net, so head coach Ken Fikis had the team work on passing and shooting extensively over the past few weeks.
“We’re trying to figure out how to put the puck in the net,” he said. “We’ve worked really hard on making sure we bury the puck, and that will be very important this weekend.”
Should the Buffs encounter scoring difficulties, they’ll have Litinsky between the pipes to back them up.
“We’re counting on Kevin to do his usual superb job,” Fikis said. “One of the tie-breakers if teams have the same record is fewest goals allowed, which will really favor us.”
Fikis said he expects the competition to be tough, with 10 of the 16 teams capable of winning it all.
Pool play opens this afternoon, with the Buffs facing off at 2 p.m. MST against Montclair State. The teams with the best records in pool play will advance to Saturday’s semifinals, and the championship is scheduled for Saturday evening.
Fikis said he’ll be extremely proud of his players no matter what happens.
“These kids have sacrificed an awful lot and worked hard all season,” he said. “It [winning] would mean an awful lot to our players.”