“Back to Back Nationals”
The 2004-2005 season started as promising as the previous year’s National Tournament ended. Although the team needed to replace four seniors from the previous season, Ryan Tucek, Tom Delcoco, Jesse Podlucky, and Andrew Tulley, key core components remained with the return of all-time leading scorer Tom Ward, his all start brother Matt, speedster Ryan Adams and all around contributors Jordan Miller, Ryan Silvis and Craig Dolan. The defense continued to be solidified by what had now become a very seasoned blue line with T.J. Drake, Jeff Stine, Mike Speagle, Jason Ruehl, Rick Myers, Brad Lloyd, Jason Seidling, and A.J. Jamiolkowski. The team was also deep in the remaining positions with Cory Bruzda, Drew Mateya, Brandon Skoogland and Chris Craft. Outstanding potential also existed in goal with Akhil Malhorta and Andrew Modecki.
Although not many, the incoming freshman class added significant depth at goaltending with Butler High School All Star Bucky Holt and Joseph Ring form Philadelphia. Chris McDonald from Erie McDowell, Cory Tucek from Gateway, the brother of graduating senior Ryan Tucek, Cody Brounce, and Chantal Ziemianski, from the Tier I Amateur Penguins Girls’ Team and Mt. Lebanon Hornets organizations rounded out the new players.
The season started well as SVC again became feared as one of the most high-powered offensive teams in College Hockey East. The squad ripped off 11 straight wins to start the season rising to the top of the league. The run, that included impressive victories against Navy, Penn State Delco, and Pitt-Johnstown abruptly ended with two flat games against Cal U. and I.U.P., each a loss by scores of 9-4 and 5-4. The team rebounded well, however by gaining victories in its next 8 games.
In perhaps the most critical game of that streak, Andrew Modecki made his own personal statement that SVC would not be denied another trip to Nationals. In spite of playing away, and being out shot 27 to 42, Motown turned in his best game since returning to the nets three years ago as he stifled the Cal shooters for a 6-4 SVC win. Not to be outdone, freshman goalie Bucky Holt had a strong game against UPJ for another key victory, 5-3. Against Robert Morris University, the Polar Bearcats dominated. Although the final score of 4-3 made it look like a close game the shots told a different story as St. Vincent bested RMU by a 45 to 30 count.
SVC was well placed fro the CHE playoffs. The team was awarded the Kaleina Cup for the best overall finish in the league and received a first round bye, eventually matching up against UPJ. Unfortunately, the team fell short of advancing to the next round. UPJ out hustled and out shot the Green and Gold by a 39 to 26 margin in a very disappointing loss. Fortunately, however, as a result of its strong showing through the year, SVC was still invited the 2004-2005 ACHA D III National Tournament to be held at the Harmarville Blade Runners Ice Facility near Pittsburgh.
The first game of Nationals pitted SVC against Fresno State University from California. Although FSU did not have a full squad, playing with only three lines, it had several top-notch performers including all tournament team forward and defenseman, Marcel Bourdelais. A last cut from the Fresno professional E.C.H.L. team, Marcel stayed in the area and played for FSU. SVC gave up some soft early goals, and in spite of diligent attempts at coming back dropped a 9-4 mark.
The second game matched SVC against an old local foe, I.U.P. The Indians had just finished battling U.P.J. for the C.H.E. championship the weekend before, and were completely outclassed by the Polar Bearcats. SVC took advantage of a tired I.U.P squad and walked away with an 8-3 win.
Matched against a powerful Arizona State team in round three, for two periods, St. Vincent completely frustrated the Sun Devils with a trap and forecheck scheme that the Maroon and Gold could not solve. When they did penetrate the zone, Modecki turned aside every shot. As a result SVC held a 3-0 lead and slight shot advantage of 26 to 23. As strong as SVC was in the first two frames, the third period ended poorly. Early in the 3’rd, the A.S.U. goalie made a huge misplay on the puck behind his net. Chris McDonald found the puck and centered a pass to a wide-open Jordan Miller who inexplicably missed the open cage. A short time later, A.S.U. scored. The depth of the Sun Devils then became a factor. As long as they kept up intense pressure in the SVC zone, the Bearcat dump and trap would not work. Then, in spite of an otherwise outstanding game, Modecki gave up a long-range goal from outside the blue line. The referees then took over. A very questionable tripping call against Ryan Adams resulted in another A.S.U. score. Then, with another St. Vincent player in the penalty box, the Sun Devils pulled their goalie and tallied a goal with 20 seconds remaining to squeak by a 4-3 win.
Although down by the outcome of what could have been one of the greatest SVC wins of the season, the Polar Bearcats had one more game to go against Florida Atlantic University. A win would mean a second consecutive 2-2 national tournament record and the #11 ranking in the country. It was to be Andy Modecki’s third consecutive start in goal and his last game as a senior, but St. Vincent would have to play without power forward Jordan Miller who had to miss the last game due to a military commitment to the Army Reserves. SVC started fast and in a run and gun first period with break-a-ways by both teams, St. Vincent came out ahead on shots and goals by respective margins of 14-6 and 4-2. In the second frame SVC went flat giving up two goals while scoring none. The third period started at 4-4 in what proved to be one of the most exciting wins in team history. St. Vincent put a puck in the net with less than 20 seconds remaining in the third period on a score by Matt Ward to take a one-goal lead. After an FAU time out, Coach Ziemianski loaded the ice with five strong defensive players, Drake, Stine, Adams, Silvis, and Dolan. They had one objective in mind, get control of the puck, send it deep in the opposing team’s zone and clog the neutral zone. Unfortunately FAU gained control, drove the puck deep and with time expiring on the clock, pushed in a goal on a scrum at the side of the cage to tie the game once more at 5-5. But it was not over yet.
Coach Ziemianski started overtime with the team’s top unit of Matt and Tom Ward with Cory Bruzda at center. Rewarded for an otherwise strong contest, Mike Speagle and Brad Lloyd took the blue line. Before F.A.U. knew what hit them SVC drove the puck into the opposing team’s zone. Matt Ward almost ended the game with what would have been his fifth goal of the contest, but was twice thwarted by the F.A.U. goalie. Then Mike Speagle found himself with the puck at the point, faked the shot and found Tom Ward in the opposite corner. Tom buried the puck. The roller coaster had stopped and the third goal in less than a minute was on the side of the good guys!
The 2004-2005 season found the Polar Bearcats with an impressive overall record of 21-5-0 for an outstanding .808 winning percentage. SVC once again proved to be a dominating ACHA D III force by outscoring its opponents 186 to 96 and outs shooting them by a 1,026 to 686 margin. It had one its first Kaleina Cup as the C.H.E. regular season champion and completed its second consecutive 11’th place finish in the national rankings.
The team nominated six players to the All Star team, Tom Ward, Matt Ward, T.J. Drake, Jason Ruehl, Mike Speagle and Andrew Modecki. Tom, Matt, T.J. and Andy were selected, but when Tom Ward opted to not play, his spot was given to Jason Ruehl. Senior awards were given Tom Ward, who graduated as the team’s all time leading scorer, Ryan Adams, Assistant Captain, Jason Ruehl, Assistant Captain, Rick Myers, Captain, Andrew “Mo Town” Modecki, Ryan Silvis, Assistant Captain during his junior season, and Brad Lloyd who made a great comeback after missing most of his junior year with a concussion.
There were also some special moments during the course of the year. Chantal Ziemianski, daughter of Coach Ziemianski, became the first player of an alumnus to play for the Polar Bearcats, the first one to ever score a goal, and the first female to ever play in C.H.E. and the A.C.H.A. D III men’s tournament. Ryan Silvis, who labored for four years as a checking specialist, scored a goal in every game at Nationals and was never on the ice for a goal against in four games. In an early season move, Cory Bruzda was moved to center Tom and Matt Ward. He responded tremendously and was named C.H.E. player of the week for a 5-goal weekend effort against Cal and U.P.J. Not to be outdone, both Matt and Tom Ward also received the honor at different times, and Andrew Modecki was the winning goaltender in the All-Star game.
Rounding out the season, Tom Ward and his brother, Matt, shared honors as Co-MVP’s, each receiving a copy of the William Vance trophy. Andrew Modecki accepted the Al Reinshagen Excellence Award for his outstanding representation of the team and the school. T.J. Drake, who assumed the role of Captain during the season was nominated the player with the most team spirit and walked away with Andy Vahaly Award. Jeff Stine, who frequently paired with T.J. on defense, was named the Fr. Herman Ubinger Unsung Hero, and Cory Bruzda was an easy choice for most improved player as his stats included 22 goals and 25 assists with a plus 28 rating from his previous years totals of 5 goals 2 assists and a plus 3 rating.