FGCU to face UNH in 2014 DII National Championship

2014-03-25

FGCU powered past Penn State 6-4 and UNH dispatched UMBC 4-0 to earn berths in Tuesday's National Championship.

Florida Gulf Coast University will play for their second time in three seasons after beating Penn State 6-4 on Monday. The Eagles will face the University of New Hampshire who reached the final with a 4-0 win over UMBC.

The 2011-12 DII National Champions, FGCU missed out on the dance last year before bouncing back in a meaningful way in 2013-14. The Eagles entered Monday’s semifinal after a must-win scenario in their final pool play game just to move forward. Facing the tournament’s top scoring squad, FGCU was facing one of two teams to cruise through the preliminary round without a loss.

Both FGCU and PSU entered the game with their offense firing at full speed and the opening 20 minutes reflected that. The teams traded goals, with FGCU sandwiching a pair of PSU goals with two of their own to end the period tied at two.

Mike Chemello opened the scoring for FGCU just 46 seconds into the game and PSU answered with goals from Tim Acker and Peter Daley. The 2-1 lead almost survived to intermission, but Dan Echeverri picked up his second point of the period, scoring the tying goal with just 31 seconds remaining.

The first and last minute bookends aided FGCU in building momentum heading into the middle frame where they took their second lead of the game on Chemello’s second goal. The lead was short lived as Chris Lewis scored to tie just 10 seconds later, marking the third time the game was tied in just over 25 minutes of hockey.

Echeverri would put FGCU ahead for good with just under seven minutes remaining in the second with his second goal and third point of the game. Ryan McAleese would add a power play goal with 1:53 remaining in the period to extend FGCU’s lead to two.
McAleese’s goal would eventually go down as the game winner after Ryan Urban added a goal late in the third period. Echeverri capped his hat trick with an empty net goal with just 16 seconds left to seal the 6-4 win.

Both Echeverri and Chemello recorded four points with Echeverri’s 3+1 effort complimenting Chemello’s two goals and two assists. Goaltender Mike Reed turned aside 34 shots including a number on FGCU five penalty kills.

The Eagles will be joined in Tuesday’s final by New Hampshire who cruised past another undefeated foe 4-0 on Monday.

UMBC may have been penciled in as a favorite after cruising through their pool with a 3-0 record (much like Penn State) as they prepared to face UNH. The Wildcats faced a situation very similar to FGCU in their final pool game as the must-win scenario controlled whether or not they would earn a berth in the semifinals.

Despite squeaking through the preliminary round, UNH wasted little time establishing themselves against UMBC on Monday. The Wildcats set the tone early and had all the goals they’d need after just 20 minutes.

Jon Drago carried the Wildcats along after Casey Sweeney and Sean Leahy scored in the opening frame. Insurance goals would be added by Cody Nizolek and Zack Mourad to extend a lead that was never threatened and the Wildcats cruised by the Retrievers en route to
their first National Final.

The FGCU-UNH matchup in the Championship marks the first time since 2002-03 that there are no representatives from the state of Michigan playing in the DII National Championship. This is the third appearance for FGCU in the finals and this will be the fourth-straight season with a different National Champion than the year before.