After finishing the regular season with a 12-11-4 record, the IU Division III hockey team will play its first playoff game against Purdue at 3:45 p.m. Saturday at The Forum in Fishers, Ind.
As members of the inaugural Indiana Collegiate Hockey Conference, IU and Purdue will compete for the ICHC Championship along with Ball State and IPFW. With only four teams in the conference, the winner of IU-Purdue will play the winner of Ball State-IPFW to determine this season’s ICHC champion on Sunday.
Having played the Boilermakers three times in October, IU is no stranger to Purdue (10-8-2). The Boilermakers swept the season series 3-0. Despite IU’s struggle against Purdue, IU Coach Rich Gordon said the team is preparing just as it has for all of its games this season.
“There are not any monumental changes,” Gordon said. “We’re preparing for a playoff game against a very good Purdue team and preparing to meet the challenge. Our players know they have to raise their intensity and focus in order to advance.”
In this season alone, the Hoosiers have made tremendous improvement and finished with the second-most points in the ICHC at 28.
“Coming together as a team with a new coaching staff and set of expectations is a process, and there is a learning curve,” Gordon said. “It took a little longer than I anticipated, but I really like the way the guys have come together in the second semester.”
Having won two out of its last three games, IU is looking to carry its momentum into Saturday’s game. After suffering back-to-back overtime losses against Michigan two weeks ago, IU rebounded last weekend and swept Holy Cross in two games, winning the contest 7-6 on a buzzer-beater goal in the third period by senior John Gangnon.
Forward Cody Reiff, who has scored five points in his last five games, helped set up the game-winning play that gave the Hoosiers their 12th win of the season.
“I got the puck with 15 seconds left, and everyone on the bench was yelling at me to push it up the ice,” Reiff said. “I brought it in and shot it, but missed the net. Thankfully, (Gangnon) was there to throw it back on. It was the best finish to a game I’ve ever been a part of.”
Despite last the thriller, IU lost 4-3 Sunday against Notre Dame. Nevertheless, the team ended its regular season on a high note and has been preparing all week not only to take on the Boilermakers, but also to advance to play Sunday for the championship.
“We had two strong practices this week, and we’re coming off a great weekend in South Bend,” assistant captain Austin Spahr said. “As a team, we’ve grown closer and accomplished goals we didn’t think were possible this season. The majority of our games this year have been close, and I think we’ve been a tough team to beat all year.”