by Daniel Tiffany 42Fifty Staff Writer
At the midpoint of September 2017, Aurora University Division 2 hockey coach, Ryan Buchanon had eight NCAA drop downs. A heavily filled senior squad, loaded with talent, Buchanon otherwise known as ‘Coach Buck’, had a team poised for a National Title.
The season started fast for AU, they swept through their first opponent, Indiana University. Once they had two close games against Marian, it was smooth sailing. After that weekend, only one team came within two goals of Aurora. Everything was going right for the Spartans. Goaltender Brad Neal led the country in wins, goals against average, and save percentage. Goal production was coming from many different scorers. As expected, Aurora was winning, unexpectedly in dominant fashion.
The regular season ended, the Spartans hadn’t lost a game. They ripped through everyone and outside of Marian and Denver, they didn’t see a close game. 30-0, that was the Spartans dominant record. A successful regular season was complete, but that was over. The most important part of the season was ready to begin.
Aurora plays in a 9-team conference, and because they had that undefeated record, they earned a double bye. Straight to the semifinals where they met Robert Morris. After a 4-2 win they had a rematch with Marian. Marian had lost to Aurora 2-1 and 2-0, however that was the second week of the season. Both teams have come a long way since then. This was for the conference title.
Aurora started slow, but got things going late and when they buried the empty net goal to make it 4-2, they were conference champions. With the win and 32-0 overall record, they earned an auto-bid to Nationals. They had returned to where they wanted to be.
When the groups were determined, Aurora learned they’d be playing three games within group play. If they won all three, they’d be in the semifinals. They beat Denver 6-3, Liberty 4-0, and had set themselves up with a win and in scenario. Northeastern won their games as well, and it was Aurora vs Northeastern for a spot in the National Semifinals. Aurora got down early 2-0. As they battled back they ended up losing 4-2. Their season was over.
After going 34-0, the Aurora Spartans finished a tremendous season without a National Title. The Spartans did come home from Ohio without a trophy, but still had a lot to be proud of.