Lions Continue Division III Dominance
Fort Myers Win extends streak to 7 Straight National TitlesApril 12th, 2017 at 6:10PM April 17th, 2017 11:33PM
When you think of NCRHA Division III roller hockey, there's one team on everyone's radar before all others: Lindenwood University. That's what happens when your program has become synonymous with success; Lindenwood entered the 2017 National Championships having won the past six Division III titles, and in total, 12 DIII National Titles -- not too shabby for a division that's crowned a champion 13 times.
Heading into the event, Lindenwood, alongside the new kid on the block in Division III, Farmingdale State College, were the favorites entering the event. The two teams met in pool play and the Lions showed why they have been the toughest opponent to play against in Division III for over a decade. Despite the score being within 2 goals up until halfway through the 3rd period, the Lions poured it on in the closing minutes, defeating Farmingdale State College by a score of 9-3.
Even after the resulting pool play matchup, the expectation was still an LU vs. FSC title game. Grand Valley State University and Michigan State University were ready to play the spoiler, but both teams would fall in the Final Four, setting the stage for an LU vs. FSC rematch. The two teams faced off with more than just a title on the line, being bragging rights, and as a result of the previous night, program reputation; Farmingdale State had defeated Lindenwood in a 5-4 thriller to take home their first Division I National Championship.
The premise was simple: could Farmingdale end Lindenwood’s DIII dominance and sweep both divisions?
The DIII Lions set out to prove they were nothing short of the best. Despite an early penalty on Farmingdale’s Michael Santos that resulted in an unsuccessful power play, Lindenwood stuck to their system and played a patient, puck-control game, content with taking advantage of their chances when they came. With 4:29 left in the period, Jake Escarcega started the scoring for the Lions, and less than a minute later Jonathon Gauthier would add on to the lead, both plays that saw nearly everyone on the floor touch the puck. Escarcega would find himself in the penalty box shortly after Gauthier’s goal, but the Lions would proceed to kill it off. After the failed man advantage, Farmingdale took two penalties of their own. At the end of the first period, six different LU players had recorded points, and the scoreboard read Lindenwood 2, Farmingdale 0.
Lindenwood started the 2nd period with a 4-on-2 power play for 55 seconds, but failed to convert. Farmingdale’s goalie, Perezepko, came up huge all game for the Rams, and instead of finding themselves down by a trio of goals just two minutes into the 2nd period, the Rams killed both penalties off. Both teams would play a similar style of play, with the shots reflecting that; Lindenwood outshot Farmingdale 12-5 in the period, but neither team would score or find themselves in the box the rest of the period. Despite Lindenwood dominating play, the score remained 2-0 Lindenwood entering the 3rd period.
In the 3rd period, neither team could seem to find the net. Farmingdale’s Michael Santos went to the box again with 7:07 left in the game, and Lindenwood’s power play went out with a chance to secure a three-goal cushion, but could not convert. Right after their penalty ended, Lindenwood’s Spenser Marquiss took a hooking penalty. Just as Marquiss left the box, Farmingdale’s Frank Guida received a pass from Patrick Clark and sent it past Lindenwood goalie Charlie Robinson to make it a 2-1 game with 3 minutes left.
After a timeout was called, the Lions responded by controlling the pace of the game the rest of the way, and Lindenwood’s Jason Novak would convert with 1:28 remaining to give Lindenwood the 3-1 lead. Despite a flurry of penalties towards the end of the game, the score would hold as the Lindenwood Lions ended another perfect season of DIII play, securing their 7th consecutive NCRHA Division III National Championship!