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COC hockey team goes undefeated

Posted: February 11, 2011 4:09 p.m.
Updated: February 11, 2011 5:00 p.m.
 

With a perfect 19-0 regular season record the College of the Canyons hockey team has done something no other team in the 400-plus member, three division American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) could do - go undefeated enroute to a no. 1 ranking and third straight conference championship.

According to the most recent ACHA polls, COC is the no. 1 ranked team in the league's Division-III Pacific Region, placing them ahead of other better-known schools including Colorado University, Iowa State University, University of Nebraska and Colorado State University.

On Feb. 5, COC began the postseason with a trip to Fresno, CA, site of the 2011 Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA) playoffs, in pursuit of the team's third straight PCHA Adams Cup. The PCHA is a conference within Division-III of the larger ACHA.

By maintaining their perfect record with impressive double-digit playoff victories over UC Davis and CSU Northridge last weekend, the Cougars won another Adams Cup and earned an automatic invitation to the 2011 ACHA Men's Division-III National Championship Tournament, being held March 9-12 in Holland, Michigan.

The trip will mark the third consecutive venture to the ACHA National Championships for COC head coach John Taferner and the Cougars, and presents an opportunity for College of the Canyons to continue to forge its national reputation as a hockey powerhouse.

However, before touching down in Michigan, COC will travel to Tempe, AZ to play a pair of exhibition games against ACHA Division-I No. 8 ranked Arizona State University (ASU) Feb. 11 and 12.

Aside from serving as a measuring stick for the Cougars before heading to Nationals, the trip will also provide the team's players an opportunity to showcase their talents in front of coaches from ASU and nearby Northern Arizona University, two programs that have expressed an interest in recruiting some of COC's players to pursue their education at these institutions.

"There are a lot of our player's getting noticed by four year schools," said Jim Schrage, COC hockey general manager and vice president of facilities planning, operations and construction at the college.

"More important than winning anything this season, we want these student athletes to have an opportunity to continue their education, and hopefully be able to play hockey, at the next level."

For the past several seasons the College of the Canyons hockey team has proven time and again that it can be highly competitive both in the state and on a national stage. As a COC club sport, the Cougars primarily face off against teams from surrounding four-year colleges and universities.

Nevertheless, over the last three seasons COC has won 53 regular season games, 10 playoff games, and back-to-back-to-back PCHA Adams Cups - advancing to the National Championships in 2009 and finishing fifth at that tournament in 2010.

The margins of victory and amount of goals the Cougars have scored this season are also impressive. Over their 19 regular season games COC outscored its opponents 216-49, scoring 10 or more goals in 14 games and topping the 20-goal mark once, for an average of more than 11 goals per game.

"We have some guys on the team who can just finish," said Schrage about the team that is primarily made up of players from the Santa Clarita Valley. "If the puck is anywhere near the net, they're going to find a way to put it in."

By allowing only 49 goals all season, the Cougars proved they are also very stout defensively. COC's trio of goaltenders combined to post a 2.57 goals against average for the team, surrendering more than four goals in a game only twice during the season.

But with that success has come a new challenge. Because of COC's offensive prowess and outstanding record, many schools in the ACHA's upper divisions have been hesitant to schedule games against a California community college playing in Division-III.

"Actually the fact we can't get on their schedule is quite a compliment to our program," said Schrage.

As for the upcoming National Championships next month, COC only has one goal.

"At Nationals, our only goal is finish better than last year. To do that we'll need to win our bracket, which will put us in the semi-finals. Only then will we start to think about the finals," said Schrage. "But this is college hockey, anything can happen."

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