The final three seconds of the NJCAA men's hockey championship seemed like a lifetime for Williston State College coach Seamus Gregory and the Tetons last weekend in Rochester, N.Y.
Leading by a goal with an ensuing faceoff in the Tetons' defensive zone, Gregory drew up a play during a timeout. WSC won the faceoff and its first national championship along with it, defeating defending title-holder Monroe Community College 3-2.
"Emotions were running high, especially for the sophomores," Gregory said. "Lots of emotions and a lot of pride. For the university, it's huge. It's the first national title in school history. We came so close last year and to beat the No. 1 team on their home ice makes it that much sweeter."
The Williston State College men’s ice hockey team poses with the tournament trophy after winning the NJCAA national championship in Rochester, N.Y. Photo courtesy of Rita Ann Deichert/WSC athletic coordinator.
The Tetons trailed by a goal midway through the third period, but Dwight Lee tied the contest on the power play at 11 minutes, 49 seconds. Nick Zern netted his second goal of the game with 3:56 remaining in regulation and goaltender Tyler Ampe stopped 15-of-16 shots in the third period to perseve the victory.
In just their second year, the Tetons have played in the championship game both seasons and have shown the ability to play with four-year programs. WSC had four wins against ACHA Division I members and forced overtime in two others. The Tetons opened the season with a 2-1 victory over Minot State University - the No. 3 seed in the national tournament - and took second-seeded Arizona State to a shootout to close out the regular season.
"There's a lot of good programs here in the state," Gregory said. "We want to come in and try to be as successful as those programs. Our schedule has helped and we want to continue to bring in good hockey."
The Tetons' national championship has not gone unnoticed. Gregory said teams have called looking to add WSC to their schedule for next season. Gregory also said the Tetons are exploring the idea of joining a league like the ACHA in the near future.
Gregory has to fill the holes in the roster left by the departure of 12 sophomores, but said that he has already landed a few recruits for next season. Gregory resumes the recruitment trail Saturday in Ottawa.