The Niagara University ACHA Purple Eagles concluded their season on a strong note closing out with a huge NECHL Championship Victory over Canisius College. This team had a very strong group of seniors who could possibly be considered one of the best in NU ACHA History. With this senior class the team has been to five straight NECHL Championship Games winning three of the last four and has also qualified for two ACHA National Championships. The accolades don’t stop there as several senior members were recognized by the league for their outstanding performances on the ice this season as the NECHL tournament MVP was awarded to senior captains Andrew Mitch and Dallas Szustak. Additionally, with the win over Canisius College, senior goalie Mike Parda surpassed goalie Dane Wakefield for the most goalie wins in NU ACHA program history. This senior class has left a legacy on the progam in a prolific and positive way.
It is always tough to watch seniors walk down the aisle at graduation as you see them develop from young adults and turn into exceptional members of the community growing into find young men. This will be a difficult senior class to part ways with, as their skill will be very difficult to replace.
Looking at the season as a whole, it was a tough start as the team lost two key members after the first weekend. The team also faced a hurdle as some members decided not to play due to possible school and work commitments but the team got through the rough patches in the first semester while battling a grueling semester and understanding what it would take for the team to be successful. The team buckled down and rebounded as the team came together to win another NECHL Championship.
The team as a whole takes pride in giving back to the community as it remains a key virtue as members of the Niagara University Community. This past season the team did a fundraiser per month at a home game donating to Breast Cancer Awareness, the Niagara County SPCA, Special Olympics, Toys for Tots, and our team adopted brother Suneel’s Light Foundation. Without support from our fans and our parents none of this success would be possible. The coaching staff would like to thank the parents of the senior class for their support over the last four seasons as without it, this team would not be where it is today.
The coaching staff does an exceptional job preparing these men for game day. A huge thank you goes out to Coach Anthony Russell and Jason Jones for their dedication to the program on and off the ice. With recruiting being such an important aspect, it is impossible to overlook the efforts of the newly wed Nate Miller on his time to improving the program – a thank you goes out to him as well. Jeannine Russell also deserves a heavy thank you for putting on all of the fundraising events for the team and being a second mother to everyone on the team. It will be difficult to find someone to fill her shoes next season. Off ice statistics and this article wouldn’t be possible for the efforts of Nick Orlowski with the countless hours of scorekeeping and writing stories for the team. Thank you to Petey for helping prepare the equipment for the team and doing all the little things behind the scene to make game day run smooth. In regards to game day operations, we can’t overlook the help Jack Lenkiewicz as the camera man for the team. The efforts of the Kiernan Staff cannot be overlooked as fitness trainer Brett did an outstanding job preparing the men for the season. The team medical trainer Diana has also spent countless nights at the rink supporting the team being prepared for anything at all times. We also cannot overlook the Director of Club Sports – John Spanbauer who has supported this team endlessly for 20 years. John will be retiring in May, but has been a tremendous asset to the team and has supported us through all of our endeavors. His support will truly be missed.
Although various individual accomplishments are listed at the bottom of this page, the coaching staff knows that the senior class has a special place in the development of the future of the program. These accomplishments would not be possible without the leadership that was brought with this senior class. Thank you to our seniors – we talked about putting a stamp on the program and that was just done. Congratulations seniors.
2017 ACHA Senior Class:
#1 – Mike Parda, #2 – Matt Janketic, #3 – Seth Gustin, #6 – Andrew Mitch, #7 – Dallas Szustak, # 11 – Mike Burke, #17 – John Gannon, #19 – Tom Skura, #22 – Zach Seither, #27 – Matt Bavaro, #31 – Cory Leonard
2017 NECHL Honors:
Tournament MVP – Andrew Mitch and Dallas Szustak
First Team NECHL – Dalton Bew, Mike Parda and Zach Seither
2017 NU ACHA Team Awards:
Unsung Hero – Matt Janketic
Offensive MVP – Andrew Mitch
Defensive MVP – Seth Gustin
Most Improved – Ryan Peters
Offensive Rookie – Trevor Evans
Defensive Rookie – Frank Vecchio
Spirit Award – Ryan Ball
Spirit of an Eagle – Zach Seither
Coaches Award – Dallas Szustak
Most Dedicated – Cory Leonard
2017 Program Records:
- Goalie Mike Parda surpasses Dane Wakefield for most wins in NU ACHA Program History with NECHL Championship Victory
- Dalton Bew is on pace to pass the all-time NU ACHA scoring record next season
2017 Team Highlight Video: