A series of gutsy performances and late-game heroics resulted in a championship trophy as the Ole Miss hockey club won the first Southeastern Conference Hockey Club (SECHC) Tournament title in program history.
The Rebels entered the tournament in Nashville with a 10-5-0 overall record, earning the No. 6 seed in the eight-team tournament. The team started the weekend by giving No. 3 seed FAU its first conference loss with a 5-3 result in the opening round. This upset carried the momentum to inch past No. 7 Auburn in the semifinal.
With the game tied at 1-1, a walk-off goal by Braden Storner in the overtime period put the Rebels past Auburn and into their second consecutive SECHC Championship game.
Though the Rebels had championship game experience — losing the final to Georgia last year — they were still the heavy underdog with top-seeded Arkansas on the other side of the table. The Razorbacks held the best record in the conference coming into the weekend at 26-3 overall, and the team’s only conference loss was to Ole Miss in December.
Arkansas took the lead early after a highly contested first period and were able to keep Ole Miss in check for most of the game until Nate Sullivan tied the game with 15 minutes left. The Rebels came back just moments after to take the lead, and Cal Lavery put the Rebels up on a goal with 11 minutes left in the game.
Lavery picked up the puck at center ice and beat Arkansas’ defenders on a two-on-one break to score the winning goal.
The Razorbacks earned a power play late in the third period, but were not able to capitalize with goalkeeper Ryan Troy saving shot after shot. While Arkansas scrambled to get back into the game in a last-ditch effort, Lavery got the puck and launched it into an empty net to put the game out of reach and secure the SECHC Tournament title.
“It was unbelievable,” Lavery said after the game. “There were no nerves in the locker room. Everybody was smiling, and we knew we were going to get it done.”
Troy recorded 110 saves in the tournament and delivered one of his best performances in the final game. Troy said the defense was crucial to the Rebels’ unexpected run over the weekend.
“We just really used our adrenaline. These guys wanted it so bad that it doesn’t matter,” Troy said. “We could’ve been off one hour of sleep, and we still went out here and just balled out like we did.”
Veteran Cole Chatham said that even when the team was down early, they were confident they would rally to get the win.
“I think having a lead early is the monkey on our back. We can’t do that. We’ve got to go down, and we’ve got to keep battling, and that’s what we’ve done all tournament long,” Chatham said. “We just tried to have fun out there… We weren’t worried, really. We’re a confident team.”
The Rebels will finish the regular season with two games against Mississippi State on Feb. 28 and 29.