This season the Fairfield men’s club ice hockey team knew that winning on talent alone wouldn’t be enough. As the team sat down in September, they set the goal of making it to Nationals, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since 2008. The Stags saw as their season progressed that reaching their goal seemed more possible every day.

“We all sat down in September and set the goal: to make it to Alabama,” said captain Brendan O’Malley ‘15. “Every single one of us believed in that goal and put everything we had toward reaching that goal, and it paid off.”

The team finished their regular season 17-3 and as the season came to an end, the Stags were guaranteed the first seed in the regional tournament. Heading into their first game, the team took on one of their biggest rivals in the Empire League, State University of New York Maritime College. As the first seed, the victory was no obstacle and the Stags defeated Maritime 5-2. For the first time in seven years, the team moved on to the next round of regionals: finals.

The team took on Richard Stockton University next. Having previously played them in the season, the team defeated them 7-4. However, they knew that during regionals, the game played by Stockton would be a little different.

“We knew they were a strong team and that they weren’t going to go down easily,” said O’Malley. “It was a back and forth game but we never lost focus and the mood on the bench was always confident.”

As the two teams were neck and neck, eventually the game was forced into overtime and Fairfield’s endurance was pushed to the limits.

“In overtime, we were able to dominate the play and with the help of Billy Kamenides ‘16, who scored the overtime winner and also had a hat trick.  We came out with the victory,” said Glenn LaFountain ‘16.

With the 5-4 win, the team is now moving onto Nationals which happen to be taking place in Alabama, a 16-plus hour drive from their home rink. Due to issues and expenses with booking flights, according to LaFountain, the team decided they would travel to Alabama on a coach bus.

“A whole hockey team on a bus together for 16 hours is definitely going to be pretty interesting, but I’m excited to take the road trip with such a great group of guys,” said LaFountain.

The team is scheduled to arrive in Alabama on March 9 and they will begin tournament play the following day against Arkansas.

“We don’t want to go into the tournament already thinking of the championship,” said LaFountain. “We have to prepare for each game as they come and do our best to make it as far as we possibly can.”

No matter where the team gets in Nationals, even getting there is an accomplishment that will set the tone for the future of the program. O’Malley added that he hopes the support that he saw for the team through fan attendance will continue in the future.

“This growing support will lead to more recruiting and a better schedule,” said O’Malley. “Eventually, down the line, I would love to see the club jump up a division and even further down the line get back to being an NCAA program.”

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