A pinch-me moment was had by Moose Jaw hockey product Eric Soar, as he and his Minot State University Division 1 hockey team walked away as the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) national champions.
Soar and the #1 seeded Beavers were able to capture glory after taking down the #3 seeded Adrian College 1-0 in the final game last week. Josh Pederson scored the game-winner and the only goal in the championship game late in the second period.
“It was surreal. The last 10 minutes everything was locked down for us and it was a ticking time bomb,” says Soar. “I can’t even tell you how many times I looked up at the clock every 10 to 15 seconds and it felt like those 10 seconds was a minute.”
“It was crazy waiting for that final buzzer but once it went, I didn’t even know how much time was left on the clock but I saw everyone jumping and throwing their stuff. It was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders and was like we finally did it,” adds Soar.
It wasn’t the easiest of paths for the Beavers through the tournament. Following shutting out the University of Michigan-Dearborn 8-0 to kick off the tournament, the Beavers found themselves in tough.
“That was probably the best game we played all year.”
In round 2, Indiana Tech took the Beavers the distance forcing overtime, but it was Minot State that prevailed winning 4-3. In the semi-finals, the Beavers found themselves in overtime once again, this time against Liberty University, and came out with a 3-2 victory.
In the national championship, they faced Adrian College and for their third game, in-a-row had a one-goal victory winning 1-0.
Soar attributes his team’s success in the tournament, especially in those close games, to a mindset that they have had all season.
“It’s not about scoring lots of goals; it’s about locking down our own end and doing what we need to do defensively. I think that’s what paid off in the first game. In the second and third games that became close, our mindset was to pick away shift by shift at doing the right things. Obviously, there are going to be some mistakes but it’s how we’re going to respond to those mistakes.”
In addition, the positivity of the entire team on the bench and on the ice was another key to their perfect 4-0 tournament record and a national championship.
One of the toughest challenges the team faced Soars notes, was in their semi-final game against Liberty University.
“We played them all year and knew what they had to offer. We knew if we were to play them and give them any opportunity, they had some much skill that we couldn’t make a mistake.”
Last week’s national championship was a redemption tour for the Beavers, as they had a first-round exit last year, and then in 2021 lost in the final to Adrian College.
“It was an amazing feeling to know that it all paid off, although It might have been heartbreaking at the moment, it ultimately led to us being more prepared this tournament to do whatever it took and to have the mentality that it wasn’t going to happen again.”
The victory was also bittersweet for Soar, as he is a senior, and the last game he played in a Beavers uniform was to win a national championship.
“It feels amazing. We’re looking at potentially losing nine guys this coming year in terms of seniors. After playing all these years with them and creating bonds with them and being able to finish them was an amazing feeling. To look across the room at the nine seniors and see the tears in those guys’ eyes and knowing that we’re going to be national champions for the rest of our lives together.”
Soar along with several teammates is now preparing for the World Cup of University Hockey, which takes place in Romania from April 14-19.
He will represent Canada at the eight-team tournament and will go up against the top university players from Romania, USA, Poland, Czechia, Hungary, Slovakia, and Sweden.