This past weekend, on February 22, the Razorbacks traveled to Huntsville, AL, to play in the SECHC conference playoffs. The Hogs took on Vanderbilt in the first round. The two programs had not met since the Razorbacks defeated the Commodores back in the 2011-12 season at the Jones Center by a score of 13-0. This game looked to be headed in a different direction when Vanderbilt took a 1-0 into the lockerroom after the first period. Once Arkansas settled down and found its playoff game, the tide turned and the Hogs scored seven unanswered goals on the back of Forest Mudgett’s hat trick.
Saturday’s semi-final game against Florida setup a rematch of the 2009-10 & 2010-11 SECHC Championship games. The Hogs won both of those games; in 2009-10, the Razorbacks earned their first-ever conference title by defeating the Gators by a score of 6-2. The two programs met again in the Championship the next season, with the Razorbacks again earning the title–this time by a score of 5-2. Saturday’s semi-final netted a similar result. Behind goals from Mason Brower, Johnny Stromp, Jansen Polk, Martin Sundstedt, Taylor Jones, Ryan Machos and Garth Derry, Arkansas earned a 7-1 victory and a spot in the Championship game.
Saturday’s victory over the Gators was significant for another reason: the win gave the Razorbacks’ fourth-year players a total of 100 wins in their career. Garth Derry, Justin McDowell, Robert Scott, Easton Oliver, and Trent Ritchie joined the Hogs in 2009. Over their careers, they each notched 25 wins in 2009-10, 27 wins in the 2010-11 season, 22 victories last season, and Saturday’s triumph earned the magic 26th victory of the season and 100th total.
After Saturday’s victory, the SECHC held its annual Awards Ceremony, during which Johnny Stromp, Easton Oliver, Kevin Scheer, and Martin Sundstedt were each recognized with All-Conference honors. Martin Sundstedt also earned MVP of the Conference. “That’s an outstanding group of young men,” said Head Coach Brian Gallini, “each one of them more than deserved All-Conference recognition.”
Sunday’s final marked a rematch between Arkansas and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Last week, the Tide knocked off the Hogs by a score of 4-3 in the second round of the South Regional. The Tide’s doing so ended the Razorbacks’ national playoff run. The Hogs were therefore eager for an opportunity to redeem themselves. And redeem they did. The Hogs jumped out to a 4-0 lead at the end of the first period behind a remarkable 30 shots. After adding a total of 31 more shots (61 on the game), the Razorbacks never looked back. They added two goals in the second and two more in the third en route to a dominant 8-0 victory.
Ryan Machos and Tucker Campbell scored two goals each to pace the Hogs, who got single markers from Forest Mudgett, Justin McDowell, Connor Crumblish, and Garth Derry. Sophomore goalie Kevin Scheer earned the fourteen save shutout and tournament MVP. “Awesome win for the boys,” senior Garth Derry said. “Couldn’t do it without them. Good win for this program.” Said goaltender Scheer, “It’s all team effort. The guys played really well in front of me and I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Sunday’s championship victory was the team’s third victory over the Crimson Tide this season (the Hogs are 11-2 against the Tide since 2009), 27th win overall, and the Razorbacks’ third playoff conference championship. No other SECHC team has earned three conference titles.