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2014 CIHA California Conference Champions
Tritons wrap-up the season by Claiming Runner-Up Honors at CIHA Founder's Cup Nationals
April 6, 2014
After earning an automatic bid from winning the CIHA California Conference for the second year in a row, the UCSD Tritons were poised to take a trip to Newark, Ohio to compete for the 2014 CIHA Founder's Cup National Championship. After receiving bids during two consecutive seasons, it was time that the 14-1-0 Tritons test their mettle on a national level. The CIHA Founder's Cup Tournament was set-up as a virtually single-elimination tournament to determine a national champion, with UCSD receiving the #5 seed and a first-round match-up against the #4 seeded University of Buffalo.
The University of Buffalo proved to be a challenge for the UCSD Tritons in their first game of the tournament, with both teams coming out firing off of the opening face-off. Triton goaltender Ryan Corriveau was instrumental in making key saves to keep the Tritons in the game early, only until junior center Kevin Zhang netted one to give the Tritons a 1-0 lead before the end of the first period. The second period would be more of the same, in a very back-and-forth hockey game where teams traded chances and made very few mistakes, until the U of Buffalo was finally able to tie it up on an early third period goal. The game remained deadlocked for the remainder of regulation, until senior veteran winger Ben Song was able to capitalize on a Buffalo mistake and find freshman Dylan Shives for a wide open net with 40 seconds to go. The Tritons would then hold on defensively for the remainder of the game and punch their ticket to the national semi-finals against Medaille College of New York.
UCSD's next opponent, the Medaille College Mavericks, much like the Tritons, were also coming off of spirited and dramatic victories from the day prior and both teams seemed to be playing their best hockey at this time. The game started as most did in this tournament, with both teams careful to give the other even an inch. When the Tritons were able to draw a powerplay in the first period, senior defenseman Tommy Tuohy found a streaking Kevin Zhang near the blueline for a slap shot goal that beat the goalie to give UC San Diego the 1-0 lead in the game. The rest of the game was back-and-forth and had plenty of chances, but with neither team able to put one in the back of the others' net. With the Medaille goaltender pulled in a desperation attempt towards the end of the game, senior Alex Kopelevich was able to create some space for himself after a defensive break-up and put the puck into the awning net to seal the 2-0 victory for the Tritons and ensure the Tritons their spot in the first ever national championship game in UCSD hockey history.
After a hard-fought, tight checking game the previous night, the Tritons tried to carry over that mentality into the final against University of Pittsburgh at Greensburgh, who had also just come off of a convincing victory over the #1 seeded Xavier University Musketeers the night before. The teams went back and forth, trading multiple power plays in the first period. Near the end of the first period, while down a man, the Tritons were on the wrong side of an unfortunate bounce that led to a 1-0 lead for the Bobcats. Goaltender Ryan Corriveau made some outstanding saves on the penalty kill, but a rebound deflected off the glass behind the net and back towards the front where it bounced off his helmet and into the net. The Tritons grinded hard and threw everything they had at the net, hitting multiple posts, but were unable to get anything past the Bobcats netminder. The Tritons continued to force the issue, which eventually led to a defensive lapse that allowed the Bobcats to take a more definitive 2-0 lead. The boys battled hard, but found themselves on the wrong end of a couple questionable calls and were stuck killing penalties at crucial points in the game and eventually ran out of time for enough of a comeback. The Tritons would have to settle for second place in this year's national tournament, falling short in only the championship game; but this was not for a lack of effort. The Tritons completed the season with a 16-2-0 overall record and had a great nationals run and second place finish, beating some of the best teams in the country in Newark, OH with a gutsy 11 man roster to cap it all off. Congratulations and thanks to everyone involved for making this season such a memorable one. A special thanks to Coach Rob Day and our graduating seniors, whose leadership helped make this all possible.
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