Brendan McFall looked like he was on a mission from the get-go as the freshman scored just 99 seconds into the title game of the final National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association (NJCAA) hockey championship in Binghamton, Feb. 26.
It would be Erie's only lead and it came on the Kats' first power-play attempt. Defending national champion Dakota College at Bottineau responded with three first-period goals in a span of just under 10 minutes after McFall's tally for a 3-1 lead.
The Kats clawed their way back and it was again McFall that brought them even at 4-4 with his second goal of the day with just under six minutes left in the second.
With the game up for grabs in the third period, the Jacks cashed in six minutes into the final stanza and with six minutes left for a 6-4 lead before adding a power-play empty-net goal for a 7-4 final and their second-consecutive national title - both over the Kats.
With the loss, the Kats become the 2017 National Champion runner-up for the second year in a row after winning the national title in 2015.
After McFall's first goal, Anthony Cybulski brought Erie within one with six minutes left in the first period to close out the opening-period scoring at 3-2.
After the Jacks restored their two-goal cushion with a two-man advantage power-play goal with about 11 minutes left in the second, Taiki Satoh responded for Erie about 90 seconds after that to make it a 4-3 game.
Dakota out-shot Erie, 52-30 for the game after the Kats were at their best offensively in the first and held the edge in shots after the opening period, 18-14. Jeffrey Gardner made 45 saves on 51 shots for ECC.
McFall, along with teammates Christian Nati and Michael Krause were named to the All-Tournament team. McFall was the only multi-goal scorer in the championship game and finished as the Kats' top playoff scorer over the three-game round robin tournament tied with Nati and Cybulski with five points apiece.
McFall also had a pair of goals in the game prior to the championship game and led the team with a three-point outing in a 7-4 win over Mohawk Valley Community College, Feb. 25. The Kats opened the tournament with a 6-3 win over Hudson Valley Community College, Feb. 24.
The Jacks snapped Erie's seven-game win streak in February and put ECC's season record at 21-5-1. Dakota College (26-3-1) had an outstanding defensive core all season led by a goaltender with a near 94 percent save percentage. The Jacks only gave up five goals in one game (Minot State) that resulted in one of their three losses.
Erie's four-goal outing in the title game was the second-highest goal total allowed by Dakota this season. The Jacks lost their other two games in allowing four goals to Williston State and the University of Jamestown.
Dakota College at Bottineau went 19-1 during the 2017 calendar year in winning their 10th overall NJCAA hockey championship and the NJCAA's last.
Overall for the tournament, Erie had 10 multi-point scorers. In addition to McFall, Nati and Cybulski; Alex Suchan recorded four points. Krause, Satoh, Luke Myer and Bill Shaffer all added three points; while Joshua Dake and Brian Losel each finished with a pair.