Mission Delayed, Mission Accomplished

The Hope College ice hockey team felt like it had the potential to go the distance last season before COVID-19 spoiled its opportunity in 2020.

The Flying Dutchmen didn’t miss out on a second chance.

Top-ranked Hope won the 2021 American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division 3 national championship in late April after blanking the University of Arkansas, 3-0, at Patterson Ice Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

It’s the program’s second national title after winning its first championship in 2018.

“This feels really good, especially after getting cut short last year,” said graduating senior defenseman Cole Stenstrom, who was on the 2018 squad as a freshman. “We felt like we got [robbed] of an opportunity, and this year we wanted to make the most of it. We did our best to prepare for it and we did it.”

Head coach Chris Van Timmeren ’97 was named the ACHA Division 3 Coach of the Year, the fourth time he has received the honor — the most among the entire ACHA.

He said this national title was even more special due to the challenges of the pandemic.

“It’s been so tough for these kids with COVID, and they had to go through all the testing three times a week,” he said. “The mental strain of ‘Am I going to play this week’ made it tougher, so for these guys to win in a year of COVID is so impressive. And to do it in the fashion they did this week makes me so proud of them.”

The Flying Dutchmen rallied from a three-goal deficit in the third period to force overtime against the University of Michigan’s ACHA team in the national semifinal.

“This team just never quits,” Van Timmeren said. “We knew we had three goals in us from the beginning. We scored two on them in the third period the last time we played them, so we came out ready to go.”

Hope relied on its defense and penalty killing to shut down a potent Razorbacks’ offense and secure the national title.

“This is a very skilled team that had the opportunity every time we played to win by multiple goals,” Van Timmeren said. “I knew from the beginning that this was a special group that was going to make something happen at the end of the year.”

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