Trip to North Dakota - Day Four
CONTACT: Jeff Foley (518) 629-8085 or (518) 373-1262
FOR RELEASE: Immediate, Sunday, March 11, 2001
Sunday, March 11 – At the end of a scrum-filled heavyweight hockey match between Hudson Valley Community College and Minot State University-Bottineau, which Hudson Valley won to capture the junior college national championship, gloves flew into the air. Sticks littered the ice. A group of players lumped together in a face-off circle, clutching and grabbing each other.
This time, however, there was no ill will or fisticuffs. Smiles, hugs and teary eyes ruled as the Vikings celebrated, soaking in the magnitude of their 9-7 victory, basking in what they'd just accomplished.
The 2000-01 Vikings (22-4) became the first Hudson Valley hockey team to win the national title. By beating Bottineau twice, this year's squad firmly established themselves as the best two-year hockey program in the United States of America.
The road to the national title, though, was nothing if not long and grueling.
It began in earnest four years ago, when Ron Kuhl was hired as head coach. He immediately implemented a five-year plan for success. That plan included taking some lumps – setbacks such as a 15-0 loss and just two wins in Kuhl's debut season – but bit by bit things got better.
Last season, the Vikings finally earned some respect in the Eastern Junior College Hockey League, checking in with an 11-11 record, defeating the defending national champions and missing the playoffs by just one game.
This year, only the second time they've qualified for post-season play since gaining varsity status in 1993, the Vikings earned it all. They became national champions.
Before wearing that crown, Hudson Valley played its way through a rugged NJCAA Region III tournament, downing Erie Community College and SUNY Morrisville to earn the right to play Bottineau.
Then, the Vikings had to endure an 18-hour trip to Bottineau, N.D. There, they tackled a town where hockey rules and the hometown Lumberjacks, who live up to their nickname by standing an average of three inches taller than the Hudson Valley skaters, are considered boss.
On the first night of the two-team, two-game tournament, Hudson Valley faced the most brutal crowd they've seen all season. The roughly 1,000 locals were ruthless.
When goaltender B.J. Sheehan celebrated an Adam Finkin goal, he was nearly hit with a frozen stuffed rabbit, which he was convinced was an actual dead hare. Then, when Finkin celebrated, a fan yelled, "Hey, Stinkin' Finkin, what are you thinking?"
On the second night, Hudson Valley battled through a shootout to finally silence the crowd. And through it all, the Vikings endured, persevered and triumphed.
They became national champions.