Playing as the underdog of the game can always be a daunting task, but Fairfield University’s men’s club ice hockey team didn’t let that get in their way as they took on Farmingdale College in their last regular game of the season before upcoming regional and national play. The Stags, ranked fourth in the league, defeated the conference third-seed Farmingdale Rams 4-2 on Sunday, Feb. 8.

Headed into the first period of the game, Farmingdale immediately attempted to prove dominance over the Stags when they scored their first goal from the top of circle just about five minutes in. About four minutes later, the Rams scored yet again, putting them ahead 2-0 in the first period. However, the Stags didn’t let the goals get in their way.

With about six minutes left in the first period, Fairfield was finally able to get a shot on the board. After an assist from Cormac Kennedy ‘17, Matt Peacock ‘17 was able to net the first goal for the Stags. The team wasn’t going to let Farmingdale finish the first period out on top and with about a minute left, Kennedy was able to score another goal off of a power play, tying the score 2-2.

“When we move our feet, we are the fastest team in the league,” said Captain Brendan O’Malley ‘15. “It was clear when we were going at 110 percent, Farmingdale couldn’t handle us.”

Penalties proved to be a reoccurring problem for both teams, but the Stags were able to push past the penalties and use Farmingdale’s penalties to their advantage.

“We took a few more penalties than we would have liked yesterday,” said O’Malley.  “Patrick Gill ‘15, Matt Engel ‘16 and Glenn LaFountain ‘16 really helped us kill those off and without their hard work, the game could have been a different story.”

Three minutes into the second period, the Stags posted their third goal of the game when Dan Giberna ‘18 scored off of an assist from J.P. O’Malley ‘17. For the first time in the game, Fairfield was finally ahead and the Rams made every attempt to get the goal back. However, the Stag’s defense was anchored heavily by O’Malley, Thomas Balanda ‘15, Christopher Joyce ‘15, and Brendan Joyce ‘18. Goalie Ralph DiSpigna ‘16, according to Marc DeLuca ‘15, “had a huge game in the net and kept Fairfield solid throughout the game.”

By the third period, Farmingdale was relentless, but between Fairfield’s offensive attacks and defense, the Rams had no luck. Junior Christian Habberstad was able to make the fourth and final goal for the Stags off an assist from LaFountain and Vin Rella ‘17. In the last three minutes of the game, Farmingdale attacked the Stags offense, but they were shut down by the team’s defense. As the buzzer went off, the team celebrated as this victory ensures a higher seed in upcoming regional and national play.

“The top four teams in our conference play in late February to see who will become the Emperor’s Cup Champion,” said O’Malley. “We are very happy heading into that at #1 and going 8-0 in conference play this year.”

The Stags are already looking beyond the Emperor’s Cup and are eager to be awarded the opportunity to compete in regional and national play. According to O’Malley, the team’s number one goal this season was to get to nationals and if they are ranked second or higher in the region, the team will be guaranteed a spot to compete in nationals which take place in Alabama. If they are ranked any lower, the team will compete in regionals and then hopefully, advance to nationals.

“We committed to taking the program to a serious club organization that is competitive, dedicated and accountable for their actions,” said DeLuca, co-president of the team. “The team has made a name for themselves not only at Fairfield University, but in the American Collegiate Hockey Association Eastern Conference, and the Empire Collegiate Hockey League.”

As the team continues to have a larger presence in the Northeast, the team has set even bigger goals for itself.

I would love to see the recognition grow for the team and eventually see them get back to a National Collegiate Athletic Association program,” said O’Malley. “We have a great program here that really flies under the radar.”

Although getting back to the NCAA is a big task, the team will start with nationals and if they succeed, the national play will get the team even more recognition which they hope will help develop the program back at Fairfield. According to DeLuca, the team owes a lot of their success to the continued support of the Fairfield community.

After the last regular season win, the team is looking forward to the next couple of weeks in front of them.

“The team will have a few nights off to rest their bodies, but will be back on the ice by the end of the week to start preparing for regionals and nationals,” said DeLuca.

On Friday, Feb. 13, the team will find out where they will be seeded for upcoming tournaments.

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