Spartans upset Cadets

After defeating SLUH in the semifinals, the Spartan hockey team turned its eyes toward the Challenge Cup Finals against its long-time rival, the CBC Cadets. Though SLUH was a big competitor during the semifinals, CBC had repeatedly knocked the Spartans out of the final rounds of the Challenge Cup in years past.

Going into Tuesday night’s game against CBC, most viewed the Spartans as the underdog. The team itself, however, felt ready for the game.

“CBC has a great team,” said junior forward Chase Rey. “If we played well, we would have a shot. You are always going to be excited, but you have to keep your head in the game.”

After a week and a half of preparation, the Spartans were sent off by a student body pep rally held at Fairmount Elementary School, despite the rain.

“It was a little scary coming over on the bus; the guys were just totally, totally quiet,” said Coach Tom Mueller. “I couldn’t get a read on how they were reacting, but I guess they were focused. They were pretty calm on the bus.”

Once the players reached the Scottrade Center, nothing could take their eyes off the prize.

“We got in here, talked about what needed to be done and they went about their business getting it done,” said Coach Mueller.

The game began, and the air was tense in the stadium as the crowd waited to see which team would strike first. Early in the first period, two Spartan players were sent to the penalty box, each with a two minute minor. Though the Spartans were down five players to three, they were able to keep CBC from scoring on the advantage

“I think when we came out and we killed off that five on three they had, that turned the tide,” said Coach Mueller. “That gave our guys confidence, thinking, ‘Hey these guys aren’t immortal.’ To do what they did in that situation, the five on three, that was huge. The kids gained a huge amount of confidence from that, and they finished up strong after that. The penalty killing was great.”

Halfway through the first period, CBC scored the first goal of the game.

“That goal, scored early, [showed us] this wasn’t gonna be a one goal game,” said Coach Mueller.

Soon after CBC’s first goal, the Spartans made a quick succession of four goals before the end of the first period. The first two goals were both scored by Rey, with less than a minute in between each one.

“It was great getting the team started, but my teammates did most of the work,” said Rey. “I was just in the right place at the right time, and Novak and Krogman just got the job done.

I was lucky enough to be in front of the net at that time.”

Since the Spartans went into this game as the underdogs in the eyes of many, the early CBC goal added to this mentality, but after Rey’s two quick goals, the crowd’s perception of the teams was shifted.

“I have to admit, we were all a little bit nervous after CBC’s goal, but Chase’s goal definitely put us back in the game just like Brennan’s goal did in the semifinals against SLUH,” said junior Caitlin Geringer. “Everyone in the stands went crazy, and especially after Chase’s second goal, the crowd really got going. It was that extra push they needed to gain their momentum.”

After Rey’s two goals, a goal scored by senior forward Adam Otten and a fourth goal scored by senior forward Kyle Novak, the attitude of the crowd in Scottrade was transformed.

Those four goals gave the team the go-ahead to pull out a 7-3 win at the final buzzer of the game, winning them the Challenge Cup for the first time in Spartan history. The win was also a personal victory for the players, as they beat one of their biggest rivals, which they lost to earlier in the season.

“[CBC is] an explosive squad, so you’ve got to give them their due,” said Coach Mueller. “They’ve got some quality kids on their team.”

Winning a game at this level against a team with such a high caliber of skill correlated to a greater sense of accomplishment for the Spartans.

“It was by far the most intense sporting event I’ve attended this year and the most exciting,” said Geringer. “The boys have earned this, and it’s awesome to see them finally get rewarded with a state title.”

Coach Mueller agreed.

“When you beat a team like CBC, you’ve beat the best,” said Coach Mueller. “That’s a hell of a program over there. They’ve got great talent, they’ve got outstanding coaching, they’re a class group. The kids are proud of themselves; I certainly am. We earned this against a quality team.”