CSU hockey enters ACHA tournament looking to break championship drought

Forward Adrian Olson looks for a pass at the orange out game against CU in the Budweiser Event's Center earlier this season. This weekend the Rams begin the ACHA Div. II national tournament in St. Louis, MO.
Forward Adrian Olson looks for a pass at the orange out game against CU in the Budweiser Event’s Center earlier this season. This weekend the Rams begin the ACHA Div. II national tournament in St. Louis, MO.

A large, green banner hangs in the CSU hockey locker room that serves as a reminder from a time before, as well as a motivational factor for today.

The banner reads ‘Colorado State University: 1995 ACHA Division II National Champions’ in gold print.

Just below the banner is a whiteboard with the same text written in dry erase marker, with 2013 in place of 1995.

“It’s important and cool that we won once upon a time, but it’s also been a long time coming, everyone is hungry to hang a new banner,” senior forward Austen Burgh said. “We set the board up at the beginning of the season in a spot where we have to look on our way to the ice as a reminder.”

The Rams take the ice this weekend in St. Louis, Mo. for the ACHA Division II National Championship Tournament in effort of reaching the goal they set for themselves over six months ago: bringing home the first place title.

“We set this goal before the season even started, and now it’s go time,” captain Paul Jenkins said.

The tournament consists of the best 16 teams of a league that is made up of more than 60. Four pools are created and the winner of each pool will advance to a single elimination final-four faceoff.

CSU finished the regular season ranked No. 10, placing it in arguably the toughest pool, forcing the Rams to play both No. 1 Miami (OH) and No. 2 Michigan State.

“Needless to say, we’ve got our work cut out for us,” CSU coach Kelly Newton said. “It will be difficult, but we didn’t come all this way to not give it our best shot. In my experience with the tournament, it is always the unexpected team who comes out on top, which is a category we could fall in.”

CSU has reached the national tournament every season since it was incepted in 1991, tallying the 22nd consecutive appearance this year.

“It’s been a long run for this club, at regionals we were nervous because we didn’t want to be the first guys not to make it,” Jenkins said. “There’s a lot of great expectations playing for a club like this, it’s cool extending that long line of history.”

The past two years the Rams have fallen by one goal to a team that would eventually go on to win the tournament, a memory that still sits in the back of the their mind.

For the six seniors on CSU’s roster, this is their last shot to write a different ending to their tournament story.

“Those thoughts have been lingering, we hope to replace them with some more positive ones and bring back a trophy,” Burgh said. “This is our last time we will get to take the ice competitively so we’re not leaving anything on the table. We’re all in.”

Club Sports Beat Reporter Quentin Sickafoose can be reached at sports at collegian.com.