In their inaugural season, the men’s ice hockey team will be in the playoffs, sealing their fate on Feb. 18 when Elmira College, behind the Mustangs in the standings, had to beat Hobart to keep their hope alive. However their 7-1 loss secured the last spot in the conference tournament for the Mustangs.
Stevenson is now 10-13-2 with a three-point edge over Elmira and now will get the chance to play in the ECAC West (ECACW) tournament starting on Feb. 22. The Mustangs limped to the finish line, losing five straight games before getting a stellar performance from freshman Pierce Dushenko, who saved all 20 shots he faced in a 2-0 win over Lebanon Valley on Feb. 17. He was named the ECAC West Rookie of the Year by the league.
Head coach Dominick Dawes said, “I think our level of play has risen here with playing the better and stronger teams in our conference. For us it’s just tighten it up, being little more disciplined and not shooting ourselves in the foot.”
A young team like the Mustangs is prone to make mistakes but the encouraging sign for Dawes is the 2-0 win over Lebanon Valley. Along with Dushenko’s 20-for-20 performance in the goal, the Mustangs were able to kill all five power plays Lebanon Valley had. Before Feb. 17, the Mustangs were stopping a relatively low 78.4 percent of extra man advantages.
Dawes also says one of the goals heading into the season was making the playoffs. “We did give ourselves two benchmarks, .500 and making the playoffs,” he said.
Now, following the results of the past weekend the Mustangs begin to prime for the postseason. Freshman Austin Swingle said this team can make a run in the postseason.
“I think we can. We have a good group of guys, everyone’s pretty close, pretty hardworking, so if we get a little more consistency (that’s been a problem this year), if we can just get a consistent effort from everyone on any night, we can beat anyone in the country,” he said. Ready for their first taste of their first postseason, the Mustangs are heading in to the conference tournament seeded sixth. Their run started Feb. 22 when they traveled to third-seeded ECACW and No. 6 in the Hobart for the ECAC West Quarterfinals.