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Calvin hockey team takes third at national tournament
By Jeff Febus
Calvin Club Hockey Team 2002-2003
Calvin Club Hockey Team 2002-2003

Making its first appearance in the American College Hockey Association Division III National Tournament since the 1992-93 season, the Calvin Club Hockey Team placed third in a field of 16 teams.

Calvin opened the tournament with a 5-2 win over the University of Wyoming.

Freshman Max Sieplinga (Grand Rapids) had a goal and three assists in the victory, and senior Brett VerKaik (Grand Rapids) had two goals and an assist.

Calvin then picked up a 4-0 quarterfinal victory over Georgetown University, with freshman Nick VerKuyl (Whitby, Ontario) and sophomore Aaron Okkema (Ancaster, Ontario) scoring two goals each.

The victory vaulted the Knights into the semifinals against host Muskegon Community College. Calvin jumped out to a 4-0 lead but could not hold on to it, as the Jayhawks scored six unanswered goals—including three in the third period—to take a 6-4 advantage.

Sieplinga scored a late goal to make it 6-5, but an empty net tally by Muskegon allowed the Jayhawks to skate away with the 7-5 win. Sieplinga finished the game with two goals and Dan DeKorne (Grand Rapids) with one for the Knights. Muskegon Community College went on to win the national championship.

Calvin rebounded to defeat the University of Georgia Bulldogs 6-3 in the consolation game.

“Obviously, we would have preferred to be playing in the championship game, but a third-place national finish is nothing to be disappointed about,” said Calvin head coach Mike Petrusma. “This team took a tremendous leap forward this year, and I am extremely proud of them. We have several underclassmen on this team, so we feel the future is bright. To have as many young guys get the kind of national tournament experience that we did this year is a tremendous bonus for the future.”

Calvin finished out the season with a 19-6 record, a remarkable turnaround from its 2-15 record during the 2001-02 season.