A big game to end a big school year for Elmira-born athlete Erin Zach saw her help her team, the Rochester Tigers, claim the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1 College Hockey America Conference Championship on March 8 against Mercyhurst University Lakers of Erie, Pennsylvania.
On the road in Erie at the Mercyhurst Ice Center, Zach’s Rochester Institute of Technology team had much to prove, she said.
“We were the major underdog in this game, only defeating Mercyhurst once in our last eight regular season games against them.”
The team went into third period up 1-0, but the Lakers scored to tie the game, forcing overtime by making it 1-1. With still no score after the first 20 minutes of OT, the squads went into yet another frame. Finally, with 6:17 remaining, the Tigers put one past the Lakers’ goalie to claim their first CHA championship title.
Finishing up her senior year at RIT, Zach was pleased with her performance on and off the ice.
“I was really happy with how this season went, especially with it being my senior year. I think it was actually the best season of my career, personally. I played in 36 games this season, tallying eight goals and 17 assists for 25 points. Going out with a league championship is definitely an awesome way to end a career,” she said this week.
Ending on a high note, Zach now hopes to take some time off from sports to focus on her academics. Graduating with a bachelor of science in applied arts and science, she has a professional concentration in media arts and minors in criminal justice, management, and advertising and public relations.
“My hope is to find a job in the promotions or event planning area, and ideally staying within the area of sports or animals,” she said.
It was no easy feat for the Tigers to reach the top this season, their second at the division 1 level, Zach recalled.
“We had a rough start, losing 12-1 to nationally fourth-ranked Clarkson University, but as the season went on, we started to find our way. We ended third in our conference of six after regular season play, just behind Robert Morris University and nationally ranked seventh Mercyhurst University. We made our way to the final weekend of our conference playoffs, facing Robert Morris on Friday night, defeating them 4-1. This took us to the championship game on Saturday where we faced Mercyhurst,” she explained.
Zach has been playing hockey for most of her life, including her tenure with the team at Elmira District Secondary School and three years of junior hockey for the Cambridge Fury (now the Preston Rivulette). After high school she was recruited by Rochester and enjoyed the school’s focus on women’s sports.
“I wouldn’t change anything about my experience at university. After completing my four years, I don’t think I would have wanted to go to any other university. The last four years of hockey have been the best experience of my life, and I would do it all over again if I could,” she said.