Jimmie hockey set for first national tourney
The second-year University of Jamestown men's hockey program will have a clean slate heading into the one-and-done American Collegiate Hockey Association Division I national tournament.
The Jimmies went on a 14-game winning streak when the calendar flipped to 2018, but the run ended with a pair of losses to top-ranked Minot State to end the regular season. Jamestown, the No. 12 seed, plays 10th-seeded University of Illinois in the opening round of nationals Saturday, March 10, at 12:30 p.m. in Columbus, Ohio.
"We had the winning streak going, and it was nice to have," said Jimmie men's hockey coach Cole Bell. "Having those things are great but it's not our goal."
The Jimmies won a pair over Williston State College out of Christmas break by a combined score of 18-4. Jamestown would get wins over Arizona State, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, University of Illinois, Midland University, Colorado State and Dakota College at Bottineau without a loss.
Along with Illinois and UNLV, Ohio University joins the group of teams the Jimmies have defeated in its portion of the bracket Overall, the Jimmies hold a 6-1 record over those teams during the regular season.
"A familiar team will be a big factor in this first game," Bell said. "It's not something we expected and we know if we go out an execute our game plan we can beat anybody."
Jamestown will be facing the Fighting Illini out of the chute after a two-week layoff from competition. The Jimmies took two road wins against Illinois in mid-January.
Illinois' Robert Ernsting and Drew Richter are each sitting on 13 goals scored this season. Other playmakers certainly include James Mcging and Tyler Opika who have tallied a combined 47 assists.
"They have some skilled players," Bell said. "They like to go north with the puck quickly and play with a little bit of speed and anticipation."
A Jamestown win could set up a possible match with Ohio this Sunday. The Jimmies won both their games over the Bobcats on the road in October.
Ohio has a pair of star players in Gianni Evangelisti (15 goals, 32 assists) and Tyler Harkins (17, 24). There have been seven players that have combined for 65 percent of Ohio's goals.
The Jimmies are being led by Jason Richter, Cole McKechney and Phoenix McElroy-Scott. The trio have combined for 89 points (35, 54). The Jimmies also feature Cameron Todd, Eric Buckley and Tyler Chavez-Leech. Defensemen Trevor Okino has contributed 21 assists from the blue line.
"Hockey is a bigger team sport than any out there," Bell said. "If there's a weak link in the chain you get exposed. Everybody's got a role and if someone doesn't show up to play we have to do stuff that's outside of our norm."
The first-time experience will be one for the Jimmies to soak in.
"They're excited," Bell said. "It's kind of our focus to do what's in front of us and looking at the big picture."