Sabres looking to make the most of program's first NCAA Tourney appearance
FOND DU LAC (WLUK) -- After a 3-0 loss in the NCHA quarterfinals over a week ago, Marian hockey thought its season was over.
"I thought we were done for sure," said Sabres head coach Zach Gaynor. "Guys had turned in their stuff."
"We knew it was an outside chance looking in," said Sabres senior Curtis Lewington. "I thought my career was over in college."
Monday the Sabres met as a team and watched the NCAA Tournament selection show anyway. To their surprise, Marian was granted an at-large bid and the Sabres were headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.
"I guess there was a lot of shock," said junior Nick Monfils. "Guys didn't know what to say, just a ton of excitement."
"It's a second chance that we're definitely not going to take for granted," said Lewington. "We're going to enjoy a second life here in college hockey."
"We're playing for something bigger than ourselves, not just the 20 guys in that locker room that are going to be on the ice," said Gaynor. "We're playing for all the alumni, all the people that walked through this program and so for us that's the motivation our guys have."
First up Marian will face Augsburg College. The team has already said the excitement of getting that at-large bid has worn off.
"It's kind of settled in the last couple days being back on the ice practicing," said Monfils. "It's a great feeling, we're going in with a lot of confidence, we have nothing to lose at this point and we're going to give it all we have."
"We're settling into a game mode again," said Lewington. "We want to give it our best go so the practices have been intense, the excitement has helped our energy level and we're going to hopefully run that into Saturday."
The Sabres know exactly who they'll be playing in the quarterfinals if they're able to get past Augsburg -- the NCHA Harris Cup Champions, St. Norbert College. Marian is 0-3 against the Green Knights this season, but would love nothing more than a fourth meeting in the NCAA Tournament.
"It's a tournament, it's a new season. You never know what can happen, so as much as we don't want to look past Augsburg I'm sure guys have thought about it," said Lewington. "But the only way we get to play them is by beating Augsburg so one game at a time is our best chance."
Marian posted its second 20-win season in school history this year and finished second in the NCHA North Division standings.
They play at Augsburg College at 7 p.m.