There are two ways to look at sudden-death overtime: it’s the most exciting way to win a game or it’s the most heart-breaking way to lose a game.
For Lonan Bulger, he got the chance to experience the exhilarating side of that equation last weekend.
Bulger and his Hobart College Statesmen of New York are the NCAA Division III Men’s Hockey Championship winners for 2023 after beating Adrian College of Michigan 3-2 in sudden-death on Sunday in Beverly, Massachusetts. The championship goal came with a little more than five minutes to go in the extra frame and set off some wild scenes at the Raymond J. Bourque Arena.
“When we saw that puck go in the back of the net, it was absolute excitement,” said Bulger on Thursday. “We worked hard the entire game and it was an amazing finish. I’m so proud of the way we did it.”
Hobart opened the scoring in the first period at the 7:24 mark and doubled their lead four minutes later. Adrian got one back on the power-play less than a minute later and would tie it late in the third, but Hobart wouldn’t be denied in bonus hockey.
The Statesmen play in the New England Hockey Conference and finished with an overall record of 29 wins and two losses. They ended up winning the conference playoff with three straight victories, giving them an automatic entry into the championship tournament.
In the national championship, they started out by beating Curry College of Massachusetts, 5-1, on March 18 and followed that up by beating the host school, Endicott College, on March 24 by a score of 3-1.
“We were ranked no. 1 for most of the season and we wanted to make sure we finished off with a win,” said Bulger. “Our goal at the start of the season was to get to the national championship tournament, but it was an amazing season and we played really well together.”
Bulger, 21, is in his freshman season with the Statesmen after finishing his junior hockey career last season with the Waywayseecappo Wolverines of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. He was the top defenceman in the league offensively last season with 12 goals and 49 assists for 61 points. This season, Bulger played in 19 games and had two assists over that time.
He said making the jump from junior to college wasn’t a hard one.
“I wouldn’t say the style of hockey is different compared to junior,” he said. “There’s more skill out there, for sure, but it wasn’t a very hard transition to make for me, personally. The biggest transition was getting back into school because I graduated from high school three years ago.”
Before playing junior, Bulger spent three years playing high school hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Minnesota; his sister, Regan Bulger, played at the same high school. She’s also made the transition to collegiate hockey as part of the women’s team at St. Cloud State in Minnesota.
“I talk with my sister about hockey, but we don’t really talk about school too much,” said Lonan.
He plans on returning to Hobart for his sophomore season and he said a repeat is definitely on his mind.
“It’s going to be hard to do it, but I think we’ll have the right guys to get back and do it again,” he said.