Flying Dutchmen Hockey Thrill the Home Crowd

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For all of you that do not already know: Hope College has an
ice hockey team: a wildly successful one. As a club, we are not considered an official varsity sport. Below is a link to the team website (if you are so inclined to check it out).

On Friday, January 25, the Flying Dutchmen hosted rival
Saginaw Valley State University at the Edge Ice Arena, a short 7-minute cruise from campus up (north) Highway-31. 

Following a gripping rendition of the National Anthem by
Allie Hoyt, the starting lineups were announced, with captain Court Fall
centering Jake Green and Justin Johnston, anchored by the defensive pairing of
Caleb Digison and Nick Cornicelli, with Sean LaDouce starting in net. 

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Being a prime-time game, the puck was dropped at 7:30,
resulting in a large fan section for the Dutchmen, and consisting of parents,
siblings, and of course, fellow students.

With just under two minutes into the game, a Cardinal tailgated freshman Will Verduin into the corner and apparently lost his edge, effectively causing
Verduin to follow suit and slam head first into the end boards.  He immediately went limp and the referee whistled the play
dead as Coach Van Timmeren and his father, “Doc,” rushed to his side.  A hushed silence ensued, in which
Will’s mother hurried tearfully to the ice. Hushed whispers were audible as concerned fans anxiously
awaited some kind of sign. After what seemed like an eternity, Will’s right leg and left arm moved
of his own accord, generating a collective sigh of relief. Hope players cautiously lifted Verduin onto a bright yellow
stretcher and hoisted their teammate onto their shoulders, carrying him to the locker room. 

With an ambulance on the way, play resumed shortly
thereafter, with the guilty Cardinal ushered off the ice by the referee to watch the remainder of the game from the stands.

The Dutchmen retaliated with a pair of penalties, obviously
disgruntled about their injured teammate.

Yet Saginaw continued to take penalties, and at the 13:16
mark, Justin Glick was able to cash in on a beautiful cross-ice feed from Chris
Kunnen on the power play. 1-0 Hope.

Just two minutes later, while battling on the boards in
front of the student section, Caleb Morgan was run over from behind, in a
blatant intent to injure. Hope
fans reacted with outrage and to their satisfaction, the Cardinal was also kicked
out of the game, handing the Dutchmen a five-minute penalty.

The Saginaw penalty kill unit proved their valor until
freshman Ryan Restum was able to bury a rebound opportunity with only 44
seconds remaining. 2-0 Hope.

Just a minute later, Chris Kunnen and Justin Glick connected
again for a give-and-go to send Kunnen streaking in alone.  He fired a low wrister far
side, effectively “snapping twine.” 3-0 Hope. The Dutchmen were
truly flying high.

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Saginaw hadn’t thrown in the towel yet however. The Dutchmen took a penalty. And then another. Being down one player is hard enough,
much less down two. Just eleven seconds
into their 5 on 3, a Cardinal caught LaDouce off-guard with an outside shot.  3-1 Hope.

With the power play goal, Saginaw released one of the
Dutchmen in the sin bin. With
renewed confidence and still up one man, Saginaw seemed to regain their
composure, and worked the puck around until they were able to find the back of
the net once again. 3-2 Hope. 

Returning to the ice for the second period, Saginaw
continued to feed on the momentum they had generated at the end of the first, knotting
the game up just four minutes later. 3-3. Uh-oh.

The second period saw considerably less penalties, as both
teams settled in for what was looking to be a tight game. Each team had their share of chances,
but both netminders rejected shot after shot, including a terrific save by LaDouce
on a breakaway attempt.

Skating 5 on 5, Saginaw put in another goal at the 8:04
mark. Saginaw 4-3. 

Yet despite allowing FOUR unanswered goals, Hope wasn’t
folding. Quite the contrary, in
fact. In a play that could have
been called either way, Kunnen erased Saginaw’s largest player, to the delight
of the starved student section. It
was ruled a charge, probably a result of the sheer force exerted. #20 spent the next two minutes in the sin bin, reflecting bitterly.

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Hope managed to kill the penalty and gained momentum. Drew O’Brien went airborne in true
Bobby Orr fashion after having his legs swept out from under him. He very nearly managed to tuck the puck
in the gaping net in a pure display of athleticism. The end of the period featured fast-paced hockey, with
chances for both sides to tally. But the score remained the same as time expired. Saginaw 4-3.

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The teams returned to their respective locker rooms to await
the ice resurfacing. After an
animated speech by Coach Van Timmeren, the locker room vibe reflected an inner
sense of calm that has been missing the entire season, particularly in losing
situations. Accompanying that confidence was a collective enthusiasm that elicited itself in the final period as a renewed effort.

After yet another strong penalty kill by Hope, the Dutchmen
took control of the game with their superior conditioning, knack for finding
the open man, and depth off the bench. Morgan
and Eric Cox entered the offensive zone together on an odd man rush.  Cox fielded a pass and rifled it over
the goalie’s shoulder! The fan
section exploded with resounding cheers as his teammates mobbed him. Hope was restored! All even at 4-4.

Saginaw continued their undisciplined play and received
another penalty. Taking advantage
of the resulting power play, Hope worked the puck around the horn. Walking the blue line, Jared Lehman
fired a low shot on net that Morgan redirected past the unsuspecting
goaltender! With only 6:50 left in
the game, Hope had regained their lead. 
5-4 Hope. 

Saginaw stormed back, peppering the Hope goal with shots
from seemingly every angle, to no avail. Thanks in part to Hope players courageously throwing their bodies to the
ice to block shots. But that
wasn’t the whole defensive story. #30 Sean LaDouce was up to the challenge of preserving Hope’s lead. Among other sparkling saves, LaDouce slid across the crease to the post,
stoning a hopeful Cardinal with his pad with only 1:30 remaining. 

Fans counted down from 10 as the clock ran out. The buzzer went off and Hope had skated
to an exhilarating, roller-coaster victory in front of their home crowd. 

After the game, Caleb Morgan received the game puck, not only for
battling back and returning to the ice, but for setting up Cox for the tying score and
putting in the game winner himself. 

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Coach Van Timmeren shared his thoughts on the game
afterwards:

I’m very proud of the way we played in the third period, thanks to some adjustments and our energy level…Going forward, this game is a huge boost. As far as their [Saginaw’s] conduct goes: they did not play with integrity. I wish they would respect the game the way it deserves.

Later that night, we received word that Will was miraculously, fine. He had gone
into shock, and hyperextended his lower back, according to Holland Hospital staff. In the meantime, he has to wear a neck brace to provide stability. Will will be receiving an MRI on Wednesday to confirm the initial diagnosis. 

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He actually made the 2.5 hour trek out to Saginaw to watch the game the following night. Truly a testament to hockey players’ fierce loyalty and devotion to the boys! You might see him strolling through campus, resplendent in his new neck brace.

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The Dutchmen traveled to Saginaw the following day and
recorded a dramatic 4-3 victory in front of a vicious crowd, their first victory in Saginaw territory in five years, bringing their season record to a sparkling 20-3.

‘til next time!

-Steven

Follow @HopeHockey on Twitter for scores and updates! #RollDutch