If the Adrian College Bulldogs were to ever change their mascot, “Steamrollers” should be given consideration.
The coach and players like to mention that the depth of their roster allows the team to “roll” four lines, and those four lines steamrolled the University of Illinois Fighting Illini 8-1 at The Ice Haus in Columbus, Ohio, Wednesday night, earning Michigan’s Adrian College its first American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division I national championship.
“We try and roll four lines, play gritty and keep it simple,” said Gary Astalos, Adrian head coach, after his team hoisted the Murdoch Cup. “I think you have to [roll four lines] when you have four games in five days. That’s a lot of ice time.
“We have a lot of talented players and those talented players are not afraid to put in the work and play the game the right way. We try to find a way to get the best out of all of our guys.”
The Bulldogs wasted little time getting on the scoreboard in the title game after netting their first goal within a scant 45 seconds having elapsed in the first period when Mike Finger tallied a goal on the doorstep after receiving a pass from Brad Kobryn.
Later in the opening period, Michael Tratar scored for Adrian, providing the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead as the teams headed to intermission.
The Fighting Illini scored early in the second period, however that goal by junior David Kellner turned out to be the only Illinois goal of the evening.
“Four games in four days is tough,” said Illinois coach Nick Fabbrini. “We just made too many mistakes, especially early. We talked about managing the game early and getting down two to nothing was not part of the plan. It’s tough when you give a good team that many chances when they are good enough to create them on their own.”
A trio of second-period goals by Adrian eliminated any hope for the Illini to rally and the Bulldogs matched that output in the third period notching three more goals in the final 20 minutes of play.
Austin Kuhn opened the second period scoring for Adrian, followed by scoring efforts off the sticks of Joe Costello and Justin Fisher.
Goaltender Austyn Roudebush was credited with a rare goaltender assist on the Kuhn effort while Costello’s goal was the result of some impressive stick work by the sophomore from Rochester, Michigan.
Costello walked in uncontested from the right faceoff circle to the net and tucked the puck under the skate and pad of Illinois netminder David Heflin.
Adrian’s final middle period goal by Fisher was an absolute Grade-A chance after he had skated between the faceoff circles and one-timed a pass from Kuhn into the Illinois net.
The Bulldogs’ three goals in the final period were scored by Marcus Rose and Kobryn, who netted a pair in the final frame. Rose, a sophomore, led Adrian in tournament scoring with five points (3G, 2A).
“I couldn’t do it without everyone. Everyone bought in and it was a group effort,” said an elated Rose. “We have a lot of great guys on our team.”
Roudebush, from Toledo, Ohio, wrapped up an amazing season in which the senior goaltender went undefeated and posted an incredible 0.91 goals-against average in the regular season and a 1.00 GAA in the national tournament.
“We stayed true to our system, true to what coach wants and trusting each other helped out a lot. We kept our eye on the prize all year long,” said Roudebush.
Staying focused is always key to a goaltender and Roudebush was focusing on the title game as soon as the horn sounded after their semifinal win against Lindenwood University (Missouri) on Monday night.
“Since last night, I was into this game. My only train of thought was on this game.”
Astalos summed up the outstanding season of his goaltender, saying, “He’s a great kid, a hard worker and is the first one on the ice and the last one off. He puts in all the work to be successful and it’s paid off. I really do think he could be a pro goalie.”
Illinois earned their way into the championship game by winning three games in three consecutive days including an overtime thriller against Ohio University and a victory against the No. 1 seed in the tournament, Minot State University (North Dakota).
“I can’t say enough about the way we battled,” said Fabbrini. “To beat a good Jamestown team, beat Ohio in what was essentially a home game [for them] before playing the No. 1 team; you can’t say enough about the effort up and down our lineup. This is what we expect and this is the new standard.”
The championship game marks not only the end of the season, but also the end of collegiate playing days for the seniors on the squads. In addition to fond memories of playing for a title, they will carry another lifetime of memories from their collegiate careers.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet, but it’s been an unbelievable ride this year,” said Adrian senior Josh Hosking, from Oxford, Michigan. “Going to Adrian turned out to be the best decision of my life, and I have been fortunate for every opportunity I have been given here. I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for it.”
The two senior captains of the teams, Archie McKinnon of Adrian and Joseph Ritondale of Illinois, shared some final thoughts on their careers as well after the game.
“This year has been special and we knew we had the right pieces and we wanted to win the last game of the year,” said McKinnon. “Adrian has been the best four years of my life and it’s just awesome.”
“It’s been an amazing year, my last year of hockey and I couldn’t ask for anything better,” said Ritondale, who is planning on applying to medical school. “Playing at Illinois was 100 times better than I expected. To be able to have the camaraderie and go to the rink every day at a great university is a dream and absolutely unbelievable. It’s crazy how fast it goes. I enjoyed my four years here more than anything.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.