Bethel University - Division I Champions!
Bethel University narrowly defeats UNLV for their first-ever Division I National Championship!
The path for Bethel was not easy, as they faced tough opponents in the round robin, losing a 1-goal game against West Chester, losing 6-2 against UC Santa Barbara, and defeating Ohio State by a score of 4-3.
Bethelís narrow margin of victories was just enough to squeeze past multiple teams in the single-elimination brackets, and the team proved that it is not the score that matters, it is the win itself, whatever the score.
Bethelís first elimination game was against UMSL, who they defeated 2-1 in overtime. Both teams traded goals in the 1st period, followed by 2 scoreless periods. Just under 6 minutes into the overtime, Bethelís Josh Foote scored to give Bethel the 2-1 victory, advancing to the Elite Eight.
Bethelís Elite Eight opponent was Long Beach State, who had just defeated North Carolina State 10-1. Long Beach started off strong with the first 2 goals of the game, both on the power play by Paul Anderson. After the teams traded a couple of goals in the end of the 1st and the 2nd, Long Beach held a 4-1 lead about halfway through the 2nd period. All signs were pointing to a Long Beach victory, when Bethel answered with 4 unanswered goals by 4 different players, the final goal from Kekoa Latimore just 2:22 into the 3rd period. Bethel was able to hang on despite taking a penalty just 40 seconds after the go-ahead goal. Hanging on, Bethel advanced to the Final Four with a 5-4 win against Long Beach State.
Bethelís Josh Foote and Chris Roberts controlled the 2nd period of the Final Four game against Eastern Michigan. The first period went scoreless, but 2 goals by Roberts and 3 by Foote gave Bethel a 5-0 lead going into the final period. Eastern Michigan pushed back in the 3rd, with 2 power play goals and 1 even strength goal, but the 5-goal deficit was too much to overcome, as Bethel held on once again with a 5-3 victory, advancing them to the Division I Championship Game in their first Division I season in the league.
Bethel faced a hot UNLV team in the Division I Championship Game. UNLV went 3-0 in round robin, dominating all opponents in Pool C. UNLV defeated Missouri State 6-2, Ohio State 3-1, Lindenwood 5-4 and Michigan State 3-1, before meeting Bethel in the final. UNLV goaltender Travis Barendt was a large part of that streak, making 30 of 34 saves in the Lindenwood game, and totaling 83 saves on 91 shots in the single-elimination brackets.
The Championship Game was a real chess match, with both teams feeling each other out in the first period. It was Bethel who struck first, 7:49 into the 1st period with a goal by Josh Foote. UNLV continued to pressure, kept to the outside by the Bethel defense. 1:53 into the 2nd period, UNLV gave Bethel an opportunity by taking a tripping penalty. About halfway through the power play, Bethelís Cole Sonstelie scored their 2nd goal of the game. Bethel immediately went into a solid defensive shell, keeping the UNLV attack to the outside and not giving up any odd-man opportunities.
UNLV struck twice early in the 3rd period, tying the game at 2-2. Bethel scored again with just under 4 minutes to go in the game. Just 25 seconds later, UNLVís Nick Robone tied the game at 3-3. Just under 2 minutes later, Bethelís Josh Foote completed his hat trick with the go-ahead goal. UNLV kept on the pressure, controlling the puck for the rest of the game, and with 2 Bethel penalties (high sticking and delay of game) called with under 1 minute to go, peppered the Bethel goaltender. The delay of game penalty was called with 24 seconds remaining in the game, but UNLV was unable to score, and Bethel escaped with the win, and their first-even Division I Championship!
Congratulations to both teams for an outstanding tournament and a dramatic finish!