In 1980, the U.S. Olympic Ice Hockey team, a group of amateur and collegiate players, beat the best hockey team in the world and won an Olympic gold medal. But for every “miracle on ice,” a thousand teams must fail.
In 2012, the Eagles joined the ranks of those teams.
The Eagles have been riding an unexpectedly successful late-season surge, winning 11 of their last 13 games and clinching a post-season berth for the first time since 2002.
Their post-season experience was cut short, though, as they crumbled on the road to the rival University of Nebraska, Kearney Lopers, 86-63 in the first round of the RMAC Shootout tournament on Tuesday night.
The Lopers, who lost to Chadron 75-73 on the preceding Saturday, played like they had something to prove.
Kearney, led by freshman forward Ethan Grozek of Norfolk who scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, shot 54 percent from the field in their victory Tuesday, which advanced the team to the second round of the RMAC tournament. They will play the No 1. seeded Colorado School of Mines, this Friday in Pueblo, Colo.
The Eagles on the other hand, who played with a remarkable intensity in their weekend victory over Kearney, struggled through Tuesday’s game. They held just three leads during the contest, all of which occurred in the first five minutes. UNK even managed to reach a gaping 27-point lead four minutes into the second half.
CSC also struggled with turnovers, giving the ball up 16 times. UNK scraped 20 points off of Chadron’s turnovers.
Chadron has had difficulty with turnovers all season, ranking second-to last in conference turnover margin.
Kearney also suffocated the Eagles’ San Franciscan powerhouse Moala Tautuaa, holding him to just five points.
Saturday, though, was a different story. The Eagles looked like a playoff-ready squad as they stretched past Kearney for the narrow victory. CSC shot 47 percent from the field and senior guard Chris Curtis led the floor with 22 points.