Cory Watson, class of 2016, Shaun Kennedy, class of 2018, and Samuel Watson, class of 2019, helped the Eastern Connecticut State University club hockey team claim the title of American Conference champions of the Northeast Collegiate Hockey Association (NECHA) on Feb. 21 with a 4-2 victory over Southern New Hampshire University.

The team finished with a regular season record of 11-1, the second best record in the 32-team NECHA.

This championship marks the end of Cory Watson's hockey club eligibility, as the defenseman is set to graduate this semester.

"The key to our success is the quality of our players," head coach John Brancati said. "They are dedicated and determined; they have the will to win."

Eastern's overall American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) record was 22-2-1, with more than half of their games played against teams outside of the NECHA. There are more than 400 collegiate teams nationwide in the ACHA.

Eastern's team, which became an official NECHA member only two years ago, was ranked higher in the ACHA than any previous American Conference team.

"No team in the American Conference has made it into the final rankings (top 12) of the Northeast Region. We are the first," said Brancati. "If we went into the regionals, we would have made noise.”

He explained that rankings for Division II in the ACHA are not based solely on record, but also on votes.

Because Eastern's team is new to the league, "No one knew who we were,” he said. “My team had enough strength but not enough exposure to get votes. Toward the end of the season, a lot of people were reaching out, saying they want to play us next year. That's good for us because now people know who we are."