Twenty-two years of skating, sweat and ice shavings for the Hope College hockey team culminated in a joyous Saturday night in Columbus, Ohio.
The Flying Dutchmen claimed their first American Collegiate Hockey Association Division 3 national championship with a 7-5 victory against Oakland University.
"It's amazing," said Tournament MVP Evan Fall, a senior forward from Royal Oak, Michigan (Royal Oak). "We worked hard all year. That was a grind of a game. The boys came together and got it done."
Hope (25-8-2 overall) returned to nationals after a rare two-year absence. The Flying Dutchmen had made 15 consecutive trips to ACHA nationals before the streak was broken in 2016, including four national runner-up finishes.
Head coach Chris Van Timmeren — a two-year player for the Flying Dutchmen who's led his alma mater since the 2000-01 season — expressed gratitude for his players, his assistant coaches and the team's fans.
He said five minutes after the game ended he already had received 45 text messages of congratulations.
"We love you guys. This is for the 22 years of people who have been trying to earn this," Van Timmeren said. "These seniors worked their butts off to get to where we are. I'm really, really proud of them. The coaches did a great job. The college has done a great job of supporting us. It's means everything. Besides getting married and having a baby, this is No. 1."
Hope jumped to a 4-0 lead in the first period and never trailed en route to avenging to regular-season defeats to its Michigan Collegiate Hockey Conference rival.
Hope extended its lead to 7-2 with second-period goals from Max Mones, Arent, and Fall.
Arent's and Fall's goals came after the Flying Dutchmen killed off a 5-on-3 power play for Oakland.
Goalie Austin Kane made 36 saves for Hope.
Fall finished with a team-high four points, including one goal and three assists.
"He's a mucker and a grinder. Teams don't like playing against him," Van Timmeren said. "He did a great job of leading the group he was playing with. He deserves it."