It was an indeed a storybook ending.
But for the wrong team.
After going 10-1-3 in the regular season and finishing second overall in the standings, the Muhlenberg Mules got their equipment ready and headed down to the ice rinks at Grundy for the Great Northeast Collegiate Hockey Conference playoffs.
The Mules were experienced, having much of the team (juniors and seniors) been on the 2006-2007 championship-winning team; they hoped to pass down that experience to the young underclassmen.
Muhlenberg defeated CW Post in the semifinals, having received a bye for the first round. CW Post was the only team that defeated Muhlenberg during the regular season. The Mules were able to dominate the Long Islanders and league MVP goaltender Will Neifeld with an 8-2 win to advance to the finals.
Playing the University of Scranton, the regular season champions, Muhlenberg had won and tied each of their games against the Royals, and was prepared for battle.
However, the game did not end as the Mules had hoped, with Muhlenberg losing in a heartbreaker 3-2 in overtime.
Scranton outplayed Muhlenberg for much of the game, and despite Muhlenberg taking a 2-1 lead in the first period, the Royals were able to dominate the game from the middle of the first period until the end of the game, tying it and ultimately scoring the game winner.
Muhlenberg goaltender David Emerson, a junior, played an unbelievable game, stopping 38 of 41 Scranton shots, saving the game many times with some fantastic stops.
“David Emerson is the best goalie I have ever had play behind me,” Captain Robbie Janowitz claims.
Ultimately, though, Emerson received little help from his defense as they were caught in the defensive zone for the majority of the game. Scranton’s speed and skill were too much for a tired Muhlenberg team, hampered by injuries to two key players in the game. Muhlenberg mustered up just 16 shots in the game.
The game-winning goal was scored just over five minutes into overtime, as a Scranton forward shot the puck, dribbling past Emerson to clinch the GNCHC championship.
“I could not be more proud of the effort given by every guy in the locker room, especially Emerson who stood on his head not only in the championship but all season long,” assistant captain Brad Zatcoff said. “Although the season did not end the way we wanted it to. We had a great group of guys this year who really meshed well together to create one of the deepest and closest teams at Muhlenberg which is what makes the loss that much harder.”
Though deflated, the Muhlenberg team gathered for a team picture with their silver medals at center ice, saluted the devoted fans that made the journey to support the team, and headed off the ice one final time this season.
“For me it was a great year,” Janowitz said. “In all of my four years at Muhlenberg I have never seen a team so tightly knit.”
The season, though, was far from a failure.
“We had a great journey,” Janowitz continued, “and I think even though it was disappointing to lose in overtime of the championship game, we will look back on years to come and be really proud of what we did together.
“I think I can speak for [myself and] the rest of the seniors on the team when I say that there has been a real transformation in Muhlenberg Hockey since we have been here. The program has grown so much both with an increase in talent and an increase in our fan base.” He goes on, saying that the thing he will miss the most is playing in front of the passionate Muhlenberg fans. “We play in front of the most amazing fans in the league.
“Overall, it was quite a run this year; we played through adversity and did some amazing things,” Janowitz concluded. “I am proud to be able to say I played on this team with this group of guys and although the loss hurts now, I know that years from now I will remember more of what we accomplished than the loss itself.”
“This loss though does not in anyway diminish the great season that the team had,” Zatcoff explained. “I expect next year’s team to come back with even more hard work and determination to make it back to the championship and win it. With so much young talent on the team, I look forward to seeing continued success for the team into the future.”
Congratulations to the 2008-2009 Muhlenberg Mules’ hockey team on a great season, and best of luck to the senior team members.