Flashes’ national playoff hopes thrashed by Davenport

Kent State and John Carroll players fight over the puck during a 9-2 Flashes’ victory at the KSU Ice Arena on Jan. 19, 2018. [FILE]

Chad Flannery

The Kent State hockey club suffered two brutal losses at the hands of Davenport University (18-9-2), by scores of 6-2 and 5-3, to bring the Flashes’ record to 24-9-1 on the season.

The losses also bring an end to the team’s national playoff hopes.

“We needed to come into the weekend strong and win both games,” said coach Jim Underwood. “It’s unfortunate because the team is full of great players who played their hearts out this season.”

Going into the weekend, Kent State still sat in the 19th spot in the national rankings. In order to make the playoffs, they needed to move up two spots into 17th.  

Underwood explained that the team struggled Friday to match Davenport’s speed.

“It was hard for the team to put a full game together,” Underwood said. “We started too slow and made a few mistakes, and once we picked up the pace, we were too far behind to catch up.”

The Flashes came to play on Saturday, though. The game was back and forth throughout, and Kent State even had a 3-2 lead midway through the third period.  

However, Davenport was able to score three unanswered goals and steal a much-needed victory.

Despite the loss on Saturday, Underwood liked how the team played.

“The game had a playoff feel to it,” Underwood said. “It was very intense and emotional for both teams. We just ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard.”

Forward John Buttitta also said that slow starts have been a problem for the Flashes all season.

“We seem to lack the energy in the first and second periods,” Buttitta said. “If we can play with the intensity we play with in the third period, we can win games.”

The team’s focus will now shift to its league playoffs, where they still have a chance to secure a title.  

Kent State will go into the tournament as the No. 4 seed and will have a matchup against the No. 5 seed.

Right now, it seems like the fifth seed will be Calvin College. In the regular season, Kent State split the series with Calvin.  They won the first matchup, 3-1, and lost the second, 2-1.  

Underwood knows they will see a different Calvin team come Thursday,

“I know that we have gotten significantly better throughout the season, so I’m sure they have too,” Underwood said. “We will have to go watch film on Calvin. I remember them having a strong defense, so it should be a low scoring, hard-fought game.”

Underwood also stressed a few key points the Flashes will have to address.

“We will need to fight with the same intensity that I saw on Saturday, and also start out strong,” he said.  “We will also have to play a full game in order to compete with Calvin.”

Senior forward and captain Mike Sullivan assessed the team’s desire to end the season on a high note.

“Despite the losses, we want to finish the year strong,” Sullivan said. “These are our last few games. I want to leave everything I have out on the ice.”

The Great Lakes Collegiate Hockey League playoffs will be hosted by Eastern Michigan and will start Feb. 22.

The Flashes goal of a league championship begins at 10 a.m. Thursday.

Chad Flannery is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected].