In what was billed as a program-defining season, the Muskie Ice Hockey team can now look back and emphatically say, they answered the call and successfully elevated the program to the next level. Building on the tireless and often times thankless efforts of former players, the Xavier players made the decision in the off-season that they were ready to find out if the program was a legitimate contender in the ACHA.
After many meetings and a lot of hard work, the team officers put forth a schedule that included the likes of perennial powerhouse Ohio University, former national champion Wright State University, Holy Cross as well as newcomers such as Akron and Notre Dame. By any measure, it was a daunting schedule that would often times test the resolve of the team and push them to their limits.
Highlights of the season came early with a split on the road against the Bobcats in which Max Poe put on one of the best goaltending performances in an X uniform. The Muskies went on to sweep crosstown rival UC in front of their faithful alumni. The team learned a valuable lesson about focus and effort in a loss at Vanderbilt that proved to be a catalyst for the balance of the first semester. Xavier faced long time nemesis Holy Cross who had beaten X eight consecutive times. This time things would be different. Xavier handily defeated the Saints in game one, but like any quality team, Holy Cross was set on revenge for Saturday. X fell behind early 5-1 but never stopped battling, managing to the tie the game midway through the third, only to fall behind by two again. Then it happened! With under two minutes to play and the goalie pulled, Brian Gardner fired a rocket from the point that found the back of the net with seconds remaining to force overtime. Pat Riedy, took care of things from there, netting the game winner less than two minutes into OT and bedlam ensued.
The second semester was full of high quality teams that included a first ever trip to Notre Dame. The highlight of the second semester had to be the game against WSU. Once again, refusing to give up and looking like OT was inevitable, Freshman Dar Faroughi buried a game winner from the top of the left circle with 0:02 left on the clock. X also won the winter classic tournament in Detroit in what most describe as the affirmation that the team was peaking at just the right time.
Xavier headed to Columbus for the year-end tournament in the hopes of defending its title. X made it to the finals in a rematch against last years runner up, the Hoosiers from IU. The game lived up to the hype with a back and forth battle. With Xavier leading 2-1 and less than a minute to play, goalie Tim Pie made the two biggest saves of his career to preserve the win. Other highlights on the trip included Alex Benz first goal and a hat trick from Caz Kanabrocki.
Coach Driscoll was asked to put the season into perspective and he had this to say "honestly, I had my doubts on the wisdom of a schedule like this. I was not sure we were ready for this step but thanks to leadership from Jake Van Oenen, Pat Riedy, and others, myself and the other coaches agreed to give it a go. The boys were right and I learned about just how serious their commitment was." Driscoll went on to say "you can't say enough about Nate Han and his leadership as my captain, he along with Deacy and Van Oenen are the best group of captains in the ACHA - hands down. Add coach Sperrick and Barnett to the mix and it made for some awfully good chemistry."
Driscoll was asked what advice he would give to his players in the off season. "Very simple, talk to Vince Shallal. The personal commitment he made during the summer is a perfect example of what it means to demand the most out of yourself. Vincent was a beast this year and the team reaped the rewards of his hard work." Adding "one other point, the depth of our team was huge for us. The addition of Jack Doyle and having highly capable subs when one of the regulars went down was a luxury that won us games. Those boys know who they are, and they should be very proud.