Hardee’s Ice Plex will host ACHA Division 2 national championship
By: Warren Mayes
If you want to see college hockey, this weekend is for you.
The American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division 2 National Championship will be held at the Hardee’s Ice Plex in Chesterfield.
The tournament will feature 16 qualifying teams to battle it out on the ice for the championship. There will be eight games starting at 2 p.m. Friday (March 15). There also will be eight games Saturday and Sunday. The championship game will be played at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
A $40 tournament pass will admit you for all 5 days. A single day tournament pass costs $10. Students wearing hockey jerseys and kids under 12 can get in for $5.
As a treat for local fans, a game features St. Louis Blues alumni playing ACHA All-Stars is set for 6:45 p.m. Sunday.
The Saint Louis University Billikens are the host team. They are coached by former Blue Todd Ewen, who also has coached at Lafayette High School among other teams.
“This tournament is huge, not only for us but for Missouri,” Ewen said. “We’ve never had the Division II tournament here. It’s going to have some really good hockey to watch.”
Teams competing are Grand Valley, Maryland, Arizona State, Northeastern, Michigan State, Colorado State, Miami of Ohio,
Connecticut, Marist, Weber State, Illinois State, Penn State, Utah State, New Hampshire, Bowling Green and Saint Louis.
Each team will have three games in pool play. The best records will be the semifinals and the two winners of the semifinals will play for the championship.
A game schedule is available at: www.achadiv2nationals.com
“This is high level, quality hockey,” Ewen said. “There are 280 teams in Division II. These are the teams that have made it out of the regionals and qualified for the nationals. Away we go.”
Ewen’s Billikens did not qualify but since they are hosting, they get to play.
“They’ve done OK. We’re in a building phase at Saint Louis,” Ewen said. “The programs we’re going against are very well established. I came in here four years ago and had 16 kids. This last year, we had 58 kids try out. You have to develop a following.
“First, you have to be able to get into SLU. Hockey is an extra curricular activity at the school. We keep working to get ahead. This year, we’ll have seven kids graduate. We have good hockey players on this team. These kids pay us to play. They have heart. They want to be there.”
It’s an experience the NHL veteran likes very much.
“It’s fantastic,” Ewen said. “I’ve coached everything from mini mites up to the university level. I love doing this. My job is to get the most out of these kids as possible.”
Ewen said he’ll likely put on skates in the all-star game featuring former Blues.
“It’s going to be fun,” Ewen said. “I’m looking forward to it. I’ll have to put the skates on after 12 years. They might get a shift or two out of me.”
Some of the ex-Blues who will be skating are Jamie Rivers, Terry Yate, Larry Patey, and Scott Mellanby. Ewen said there’s a good chance Kelly Chase will be there for the fans, too.
“We’ve got 11 NHL’ers so far,” Ewen said. “We may have to fill in with a few others but that’s OK. It’s going to be a good time.”
So will the tournament, Ewen said.
“I think everybody who comes out here, will like it,” Ewen said. “You will go from rink to rink at Hardee’s and see what’s going on. Overall, it’s a great value and they’ll be some good hockey to see. What’s better than that?”
The ACHA is the governing body of club ice hockey teams not sanctioned by the NCAA. The organization provides structure, regulations and promotes the quality of collegiate ice hockey.
The ACHA currently boasts five divisions (three men’s and two women’s) with over 300 teams from across the United States. Because teams are not sanctioned by the NCAA; they offer no scholarships and typically receive far less university funding. ACHA teams attract considerable on-campus attention and the quality of play is considered quite high, especially in the top division.
The ACHA’s primary mission is to support the growth of two-year and four-year collegiate hockey programs nationwide