Virginia Club Hockey won its first ACCHL championship since 2000 Sunday, ending a drought of over 17 years. The Cavaliers finished their season on their home ice, beating NC State 5-1 in the championship game.
It might have seem like a foregone conclusion that — as the regular season champions — Virginia would win the postseason title. However, the road to finally winning a championship after four-straight seasons ending in semifinals losses was rockier than one may imagine.
Their trials on the path to the title game started earnestly when Virginia faced long-time foe James Madison in the semifinals Saturday afternoon. In the first period, the Cavaliers jumped out to a two-goal lead, but James Madison tied it up in the second period.
Halfway through the third period, both teams had worked the game to a four-four tie. During this time, freshman goalie David Voigt felt his ankle pop, sustaining an injury that was later found to include multiple torn ligaments and a fractured bone in his ankle. However, after the timeout, Voigt came back out onto the ice and would go on to finish the game.
As the game wore on, the pressure mounted for the Cavaliers. The specter of overtime was daunting for Virginia due to last year’s overtime loss to George Washington in the semifinals fresh in its mind.
Thankfully, senior forward and team president Raffi Keuroglian came through in a big way — scoring his first goal of the season off an assist from junior forward Roby Williams to take a 5-4 lead. From there, the Cavaliers didn’t relinquish their lead and were able to hang on for a 5-4 victory.
“That goal was definitely the biggest one I’ve ever scored, so it was a surreal moment,” Keuroglian said. “It was a culmination of everything we’ve been working toward in the four years I’ve been here, and it was also a huge relief because we knew we couldn’t let the game stretch on much longer.”
While defeating James Madison on the teams’ shared home ice was a huge relief, the Cavaliers’ task was not done. The Championship game was less than 24 hours away, and without a true backup, the team still needed Voigt to suit up to play.
The freshman proved able to play through the pain and held the Wolverines to only one goal given up in the first period. The Cavaliers overcame this early deficit and never looked back, beating NC State 5-1 to win the title.
“It was an experience I will never forget,” Voigt said. “I had so much adrenaline that it caused me to lose most of the pain in my ankle and help our team win the championship.”
Senior captain Dan Glavin also said Voigt’s injury was a significant point in the game.
“[It] ended up being a huge rallying point for us,” Glavin said.
Even though Voigt is now looking at six weeks in a boot, Virginia hockey finally has the championship trophy that has eluded them for the past 17 seasons thanks to his effort.
“We've come close to winning the past few years, but the difference this year was our depth,” Glavin said. “We outplayed a lot of teams this year because all four of our lines consistently scored goals and this held true during the tournament.”
However, the title comes at a time of uncertainty for the program. Virginia’s home ice — Main Street Arena in downtown Charlottesville — was sold this fall to Taliaferro Junction LLC, who reportedly has an interest in using the space for a 21st century office building. Without another ice rink in the area, uncertainty surrounding Main Street Arena’s future provides equal uncertainty for the program. However, Keurogilan said he is not worried about the issue.
“The team will still be competing to defend our title [next season] regardless of the situation with MSA [Main Street Arena],” Keurogilan said.
This controversy only adds to the magnitude of what the Cavaliers accomplished Sunday, as they ended what may well be their last game at Main Street Arena with a championship. Therefore, even though the future of the program is cloudy, their accomplishments this past weekend cannot be diminished. The Cavaliers overcame the odds to become ACCHL Champions.