The Road to victory
Hobart Hockey Captures First National Title
BY MACKENZIE LARSON '12
A hockey season is a journey in every sense and when the Statesmen embarked last October on the path toward their first national title, the players had established their waypoints. The coordinates? 1-8-4-1.
“During the season, it was a combo to a door the team had to use every day. I knew the guys would have to punch that number in every single day, all year long,” says Head Coach Mark Taylor.
The first “one” referenced the Statemen’s goal of being the top team in the New England Hockey Conference; the “eight” reflected their vision of reaching an eighth consecutive NCAA Tournament; “four” represented advancing through the national tournament to the Frozen Four; and the final “one” was the big one: Hobart, the last team standing, winning their first ever national championship.
The moment came — after 149 days, 31 games and nearly 6,000 miles — when Wil Crane ’24 fired home a one-timer with 5:05 remaining in overtime, lifting Hobart over Adrian 3-2 and clinching the NCAA Division III Men’s Ice Hockey National Championship. Along the way, the Statesmen compiled a 29-2-0 overall record, including a perfect 19-0-0 at The Geneva Recreation Center (The Cooler) and a 20-0-0 record wearing their home white jerseys. The 29 wins are the most in a single season in program history and are tied for the sixth most in NCAA Division III history. During the regular season, the Statesmen were 16-2-0, capturing their second consecutive NEHC title. Hobart’s .935 winning percentage is seventh on the NCAA list. The team opened the year winning its first 14 games of the season, setting a new program record, and ended on a 12-game winning streak; both streaks snapped the previous program record of 10 from 2014-15.
Hobart’s historic season got off to a storybook start. Led by longtime Head Coach Mark Taylor, the Statesmen defeated Oswego State 5-2 in their home opener at The Cooler on Oct. 28, and from there, they were off to the races, winning the next four games at home, including a pair of one-goal victories over Southern Maine and Cortland. The Statesmen hit the road for the first time in early November, posting three consecutive shutouts with wins over Cortland (5-0), Johnson and Wales (5-0) and UMass Boston (3-0). Following the win over the Red Dragons, Hobart moved up to No. 1 in the USCHO. com poll for the first time in program history, starting a 10-week stretch with the Statesmen ranked first in the country. After fall break, the team played the final five games of 2022 at The Cooler. During that stretch, Hobart won three consecutive 2-1 games against Trinity, Colby and Salve Regina.
January began with a four-game road trip, Hobart’s longest of the season. The Statesmen extended their win streak to 14 games with a 3-0 win over New England College. The next day, Norwich handed Hobart its first loss of the season; the Cadets scored twice in the second period and held on for the 2-1 victory. The Statesmen bounced back with wins over Southern Maine and Babson to close out the road trip.
Hobart returned to New York for a weekend series with travel partner Elmira. Each team won the game on their home ice, but that loss would be Hobart’s last of the season. On Feb. 10, the Statesmen faced Norwich again, this time clinching the regular season title with a 3-2 win. Hobart finished the season with a historic 23-2-0 record; the previous record for wins in a season, 21, had been tied five times but never broken — until now.
As the regular season champions, Hobart earned the No. 1 seed in the New England Hockey Conference tournament, where the team met eighth-seeded Castleton University in the first round. The Spartans gave Hobart everything they could handle for 40 minutes and took a 3-2 lead going into the second intermission, but in the third period, the Statesmen erupted for five goals and emerged with a 7-3 victory. Six Statesmen had a multipoint game that night, including Tanner Daniels ’26 and Luke Aquaro ’25, who scored two goals apiece.
The NEHC semifinal game pit Hobart against a fifth-ranked Skidmore team, coming off an upset win over Elmira. The Statesmen emerged victorious 1-0 in a goaltending battle against the Thoroughbreds. Damon Beaver ’26 stopped all 26 shots he faced as he earned his seventh shutout of the season. Captain Zach Tyson ’22, MSM ’23 scored Hobart’s goal at the 3:19 mark of the second period. The win over Skidmore ensured that Hobart would host the NEHC title game at The Cooler for the first time.
The March 4 contest against 13th-ranked Babson saw Hobart hoist the Mariano Cup, the team’s second NEHC tournament title. The 5-1 victory was led by Aquaro, who scored twice, along with Tyson, Daniels and Jonah Alexander ’24, who put up Hobart’s other goals, while Beaver continued his strong play with 14 saves.
Following the championship game, Tyson was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. He was joined on the all-tournament team by Aquaro, Beaver, Daniels and Matthieu Wuth ’24.
Two days after winning the NEHC championship, Hobart was given a firstround bye to the NCAA Division III Men’s Ice Hockey Championship. The Statesmen have been selected to eight straight NCAA tournaments, the longest active streak in the nation. With the first-round bye, Hobart needed only one win to achieve its third goal, advancing to the national semifinals.
Hobart met seventh-ranked Curry College in the quarterfinals. After a goalless first period, the Colonels scored at the 8:56 mark of the second period. The Statesmen bounced back eight minutes later, scoring three times in 35 seconds for a 3-1 lead at the end of two periods. The goals — courtesy of Brenden Howell ’23, Cooper Swift ’25 and Kahlil Fontana ’26 — were the fastest trio in the Mark Taylor era. Tanner Daniels ’26 and Ignat Belov ’26 added goals in the third period as Hobart secured its fourth trip to the national semifinals with a 5-1 win.
“ I thought there was a lot of character out there. The experts will say it was an offensive game, a defensive game, but to me, it was a character game.”
—HEAD COACH MARK TAYLOR
One last road trip, one last milestone. The national semifinals brought the Statesmen 382 miles east to Endicott College’s Raymond J. Bourque Arena, where they competed against their fourth-ranked hosts, Endicott. For the second straight game, Hobart was down 1-0 midway through the second period. And for the second straight game Howell scored the equalizer. Beaver stopped all 25 remaining shots on goal, and in the third period, Aquaro and Austin Mourar ’24 notched goals to send the Statesmen to the national championship game for the first time in program history.
Two days later, Hobart faced the third-ranked defending champions, the Adrian College Bulldogs, in the title game. The Statesmen jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period thanks to goals from Aquaro and Shane Shell ’25. The Bulldogs rallied to tie the game 2-2 with just over five minutes remaining in regulation. After a frantic 14 minutes in overtime, Wil Crane ’24 scored the game-winning goal.
“We got the puck low and coach was telling us to work down low all night,” Crane said of the game-winning goal. “Brenden Howell got a shot off in the slot and the puck came to me and I was fortunate to put home a rebound and kind of blacked out after that. Couldn’t have written a better script.”
Tyson, who continued to captain the team as a graduate student, said Hobart’s 1-8-4-1 season-long vision kept him motivated. “I came back because I wanted to, first off, win an NEHC Championship — we checked that off, both regular season and playoffs. I wanted another crack at the [NCAA] tournament, and we crossed that off the list,” he said. “It feels great to get it done.”
Beaver, who made a season-high 37 saves as he earned his 18th win of the season, was named the tournament’s most outstanding player and earned a spot on the All- Tournament team, alongside Mourar, Aquaro and Crane.
“It starts with the defensemen, coach and the players, and having everyone on board,” Beaver said of his performance. “It gives me so much confidence that they are in front of me. I just try to stay humble in victory and defeat. But my confidence all starts with the guys in front of me.”
As Coach Taylor told the Boston Globe after the championship victory, the team’s heart, determination and unity was palpable on the ice. “I thought there was a lot of character out there,” he said. “The experts will say it was an offensive game, a defensive game, but to me, it was a character game.”
The awards piled up for the Statesmen in the days leading up to and following the national championship. Head Coach Mark Taylor, who also coached Team USA at the Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games, was recognized with the 2023 Edward Jeremiah Award as the American Hockey Coaches Association Division III Men’s Coach of the Year. He was also named Coach of the Year by the New England Hockey Conference and USCHO.com.
Forward Luke Aquaro ’25 was the runnerup for the Sid Watson Award as the national player of the year. In addition, he was named a 2022-23 CCM/American Hockey Coaches Association East first team All-American. The NEHC Player of the Year also earned a spot on the All-USCHO.com team. Forward Jonah Alexander ’24 was named to the All-America East second team.
Along with being named the MVP of the NCAA tournament, goaltender Damon Beaver ’26 was named the USCHO.com Rookie of the Year and the NEHC Rookie of the Year.
Hobart finished the year ranked 10th in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 3.97 goals per game. The Statesmen scored 123 goals and had 203 assists for 326 points. Hobart was fifth in the nation in points and seventh in assists. The Statesmen’s .935 winning percentage was best in the nation. Aquaro led the team with 21 goals and 39 points. He was the first Statesman since Nick DeCroo ’09 to score 20 goals in a season. Alexander and Shell had a team best 20 assists. Twenty-four of the 27 players who saw action in a game this season recorded at least one point.
The Statesmen finished the year first in the nation in scoring defense, tallying the secondbest mark in NCAA history. Hobart allowed a mere 37 goals this season, the fewest in program history. The Statesmen goalies combined for a program record .947 save percentage and nine shutouts, putting the Statesmen at fifth in DIII history for most shutouts in a season. Beaver’s outstanding performance between the pipes yielded a program-record seven shutouts (putting the first-year third on Hobart’s career list). He was also the first goalie in program history to record three consecutive shutouts, with wins over Cortland (5-0), UMass Boston (3-0) and Skidmore (4-0) in November. Beaver’s season is also among the best in Division III history, ranking third in goals against average and fourth in both save percentage and shutouts. All three marks were program records.