BENSENVILLE, IL (Friday, March 1, 2013). After a long, successful season, in which Navy won an historic amount of games, the 2013 season ended Friday in a heartbreaking loss to Rutgers, 5-3, in the opening round of the ACHA Men's D1 National Tournament.
Whether it was the long road trip from Annapolis or nerves from being the first team from the Naval Academy to earn a National Tournament bid, the Midshipmen looked sluggish in the opening minutes of their first round game against Rutgers. Whatever the causes of Navy's slow start, Rutgers took advantage of the Mid's early missteps, scoring three quick goals within the first twelve minutes of the first period. To many, it looked as though the game might turn into a repeat of the ECHA Conference championship in which Navy gave up nine unanswered goals to Towson. However, after a strategic time-out after the third goal, Navy was able to settle down and regroup. Almost immediately, they began playing the kind of hockey that got them the bid to the National Tournament in the first place.
The rest of the game, Navy would outplay Rutgers, topping them in both shot tally and total goals. Late in the third period, it looked as if Navy was mounting an incredible comeback, closing the gap in goals and dominating play in their offensive zone; but ultimately, Rutgers was able to answer when needed, maintaining a slim lead that would give them the victory.
With the loss comes the end of a season and the end of the careers of the graduating class. The lockerroom was an understandably emotional environment after the game, as captains Doug Dietrich and Matt Lutch said their good-byes to their teammates, along with fellow senior Liam Kearney. Tears were shed, voices choked, and the atmosphere was heavy, but for both the class of 2013 and the players who will be returning next year, the future is full of great opportunity. For the graduation seniors, their respective careers in the Navy and Marine Corps await them, as they will toss their caps into the air in May and commission as officers in the United States Armed Forces. For the rest of the team, the future of the program looks particularly bright as young talent will now be bolstered by a good deal of experience.