Cochranite Connor Rendell is looking to help his University of Oregon Ducks hockey team make some history on Feb. 9 in South Lake Tahoe, California.
After winning their first two games against San Jose State University and Arizona State by 9-5 and 4-3 scores respectively, the Ducks then defeated the Boise State Broncos 3-0 in their final game to secure the trophy. The win clinches Oregon a berth in the Regional Championships.
"It feels incredible (to win the PAC-8 Championship)," Rendell said. "We've had an amazing year so far and it's awesome to see all the boys'
hard work pay off."
"There was a lot of pressure on us this year. Our plan is to make the national tournament and winning the Pac-8 title was step one in achieving that goal. We now have a regional tournament at the end of the month where we're trying to win our spot to nationals. We have 10 seniors this year, so this could be our best chance for a couple of years."
The Ducks have had an outstanding season thus far, going 24-3-0-1 while finishing the PAC-8 portion of their schedule with a 13-0-0-1 record. Rendell, who potted 33 points in 25 games including 15 goals, is no stranger to playoff hockey.
He was a member of the Generals from 2013 through until 2017, played in 107 regular-season games for Cochrane, posting 90 goals and 85 assists for 175 points, good for 1.6 points per game.
Rendell’s best season with Cochrane was his last in 2016-17 where he set a Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL) record by scoring 54 goals while also adding 34 assists for 88 points on a Generals team that finished the regular season with a 33-7-1 record. The team fell in six games of the league championship series to the Red Deer Vipers, while also earning a silver medal at the Hockey Alberta provincial tournament championship game after a 5-4 loss to the Wainwright Bisons in overtime.
"Regionals will be intense, there's no room for error," Rendell said of his team's upcoming challenge. "It's a single knockout tournament where all 10 teams there can win any year."
"We were incredibly resilient in Tahoe. A fight that I haven't seen from our team all year. The boys are seeing what it takes to win this time of year and there's no panic from anyone. This hasn't been the case all year so I'm glad we're figuring things out at the right time. Statistically, I didn't have the year I wanted but my confidence has been getting better every game since the New Year."
Rendell said he knew that the Ducks had a good team coming into the season but said it wasn't until late October that the team truly believed they could be national title contenders.
"We split the weekend with Florida Gulf Coast. Florida has won back-to-back national titles. When we won game two, it clicked for everyone that we had a pretty good team and could maybe do something special."
He also adds that having the experience of playing in regionals last year, could give the Ducks the boost they need to push through to nationals.
"It's going to help a lot," he said. "Last year we were just riding the high of winning the PAC and didn't take it seriously enough. Everyone knows this year that the end goal is nationals and this is the best shot our program has ever had."
"I've dedicated so much time into helping the program and seeing it pay off is amazing. I hope this is only the beginning and we continue to grow our program every year I'm here and moving into the future. Making the national tournament for the first time in program history would be very special, something I wouldn't take for granted."