Hawks clinch NE-10 Championship at home, beat Saint Mike’s 5-1


Courtesy / Bruce Preston

Hawks celebrate their victory over Saint Mike’s with the NE-10 championship trophy.

Luke Sugar, Sports Editor

The Saint Anselm men’s hockey team capped off their magical season in the best way possible: a championship win at home. On Saturday afternoon, the Hawks became NE-10 champions after their dominant 5-1 win over Saint Michael’s. 

The Hawks finished the regular season with a strong record of 19-10-3, making them regular season champions and the #1 seed in the NE-10 tournament. 

Sullivan arena was packed with Saint Anselm faithful, cheering on their beloved Hawks. The stands were full, the concourse was mobbed, and people were crowded along the glass behind the home net. 

The announcement of Saint Mikes’ starting lineup was met with deafening boos, and the Saint Anselm lineup was welcomed with even louder cheers. Saint A’s players mentioned getting chills during the lineup announcements. Everything was on the line. One final game to crown the NE-10 king. 

Midway through the first period, freshman forward Garrett Alberti struck first for the Hawks, scoring off of an assist from freshman forward John Meyers. A few minutes later, junior forward Liam Lyons found the back of the net off of a deflected pass from senior defenseman Mark Leach. 

After their strong start, the Hawks never took their foot off the gas. Early in the second period, junior forward Will Christensen buried a one-timer from sophomore defenseman Mark Blaney. The third period was no different for the Hawks — utter domination. Sophomore defenseman Richie Colarusso scored his first collegiate goal to make it four unanswered goals for the Hawks. Freshman forward Luke Linart capped off the five goal scoring frenzy for the Hawks. 

The Hawks only conceded one goal in the final minutes while on the penalty kill. Senior goaltender Nick Howard was on a mission in net and a brick wall for the Hawks, saving 39 of Saint Mike’s 40 shots. 

In the last minute of the game, reality set in for the Hawks. The six seniors (Andrew Andary, Matt Hayes, Chris Lemay, Mark Leach, Jack Murphy, and Nick Howard) were put on the ice for the final shift of the season together. 

Leach mentioned, “That last minute was the longest minute I think I’ve ever played hockey. Every chance we could we were thinking, ‘I don’t want this puck in the zone. I want to get the puck out. I want this game to be over.’” 

As the final horn sounded and the clock struck zero, tears of joy flowed from the seniors on the ice and their teammates on the bench. The Hawks had done it — champions of the NE-10. 

Andary put into words just how important this championship was to the Hawks: “At the end of the day, you want to be a winner, so to be able to go out on top is one of the coolest and most rewarding feelings ever.”

Lemay added, “It didn’t feel real. That was the top moment in my hockey career. I had never won a tournament of that magnitude before.” 

The celebration was like something out of a dream. Howard dropped his stick, threw his pads into the air, tossed his helmet to the side and jumped into Leach’s arms in pure elation. 

The rest of the seniors skated over to hug their classmates, while their teammates spilled over the bench and onto the ice. The team made a pig-pile along the home side of the boards, letting all their emotions pour out. Players described their celebration with words like, ‘happiness, excitement, and tears of joy.’ But they also mentioned feeling relieved that they had finally done it. 

One of the biggest keys to the Hawks’ success this season was their strong cast of leaders. In a post-game interview, Howard expressed just how special this group of seniors was, saying, “In the 20 years of having been on teams, the group of seniors was the closest group of teammates that I’ve ever had. It’s a lot closer to family. So, to actually accomplish something with family is far more meaningful than accomplishing something with a team.”

Even injuries didn’t stand in the way of the ultimate goal. The Hawks were fairly banged up this season, constantly having players go down. But the team’s depth proved to be critical. 

“We had a lot of injuries this year. Guys out of lineups at key times. But we always found a way to kind of get through it and come back and win no matter what. We always fought, and we never felt like we were really out of it,” said Hayes.

The Hawks were presented with their trophy and passed it around to one another, each guy getting to hoist the hardware above his head. Hayes, Andary, and Howard were named to the all-tournament team. Howard also earned the prestigious most outstanding player award (MOP), conceding only one goal in two playoff games. 

During the regular season, Howard, Hayes, and Andary were named to the NE-10 all-conference second team, while Linart and Alberti were named to the all-rookie team. Jack Murphy won NE-10 defensive player of the year and was honored on the NE-10 first team. Head Coach Larry Rocha was named coach of the year. 

The Hawks championship truly was a team effort, but the players expressed just how thankful they were for all the support throughout the season. The team thanked the coaching staff, the strength and conditioning coaches, and the athletic trainers for getting the players healthy and back on the ice.

“We were doing it for the fans, too. They supported us all year, and we thank them for that. It wasn’t just the hockey team winning. It was the whole school winning an NE-10 championship, so we took pride in that too. And then to top it off and go watch the basketball team win a league championship was unreal. It felt awesome to bring two championships to the Hilltop,” said Andary.