The University of Louisville Ice Hockey team entered this weekend’s TSCHL conference tournament as the #2 seed after finishing the regular season in second place behind Ohio University. The Cards would earn a bye into the semis and would face off against the Dayton Flyers in their first game. These two teams split the regular season series 1-1, each winning a game on their home ice. This would be a close battle throughout, with Cardinal freshman Yannis Soukas getting the Cards on the board first 8 minutes into the first period. Dayton quickly answered to knot the game at one and that’s how the period would end. Both teams came out aggressive in the second period which saw both teams trade a couple of goals apiece.
Soukas was the scorer on both Cardinal goals, giving him the hat trick on the night and leading Louisville to the locker room once again tied 3-3 after 40 minutes of play. Knowing a Dayton win could potentially knock the Cardinals from the postseason national tournament, the team was challenged at the intermission to take care of business in the third period. Both teams played a tight checking third period, not wanting to make the crucial mistake that may lose the game. Scoring chances were few and far between in the third until Nathan Newport knocked home a rebound with three minutes remaining to put the Cards ahead 4-3. Jerome Schlaff would add an empty net goal just two minutes later to seal the win for the Cards 5-3 and push them into the championship game Sunday morning. Soukas would finish the game with 3 goals and 2 assists, while fellow linemate Henry Smith would add a game high 4 assists on the night. Nick Nuss would get the win in net for Louisville, making 24 saves on 27 shots.
Sunday morning’s final would pit the Cards against rival #1 seed Ohio University, another team they had split the regular season games with one apiece. Featuring two teams that will head to next weekend’s regional tournament play, this game would not disappoint those hoping for a close battle. The Bobcats jumped on Louisville just two minutes in, scoring on a defensive mistake that led to a two on one tap in goal for Ohio. Mike Rooney would answer for the Cards just four minutes later, knocking home a power play goal off a feed from Henry Smith and Derek Piekarczyk. Ohio would not be rattled though, quickly regaining the lead just 20 seconds later. Rooney would get his second of the night off a beautiful pass from Chris Nelson that set up the tying goal and the Cards would add one more from Soukas with two minutes left in the period to take a 3-2 advantage to the locker room. Ohio, the regular season champion, would not go quietly though, gaining a 5-3 lead over the Cards in the second period with three straight unanswered goals. With just four minutes remaining in the second it was gut check time for Louisville, and Derek Piekarczyk would answer the challenge netting two quick goals to once again have the Cards tied leading into the final period of play. With the championship on the line the Cards showed their mettle when starting goaltender Nick Nuss was knocked into the goal post and subsequently out the game with 17 minutes remaining in the game. Backup Trevor Beck entered the game cold and held the Bobcats at bay for the duration of the game, making 12 saves in the process. Louisville would get what would be the game winner from the stick of hometown senior Mike Klyczek with a ridiculous snipe from inside the circle on the Bobcats netminder. Piekarczyk would clinch the title for the Cards with a shorthanded goal, his third of the night, with just over two minutes remaining in the game. Louisville held off a furious rally from Ohio to take home the tourney title, their second in as many years as members of the conference. Piekarczyk and Soukas would share tournament MVP honors. The Cards will now set their sights on Dale City, VA, site of next weekend’s regional qualifier for the national tournament. #9 seed Louisville will face #12 Princeton in a Friday night play-in game, with the winner taking on #4 Penn State on Saturday afternoon. This will be Louisville’s first ever appearance in the national tournament.