Local athletes help Michigan squad capture 1st ACHA national crown

Austin Huffer and Cam Wiederhoeft sat at the dinner table to share the final meal they’d eat with the entire Hope College hockey team after winning the final game they’ll play for the Dutch.

Wiederhoeft said it felt surreal knowing that would be the last time they were ever going to play together, but he couldn’t think of any better way to end it. The Jennings County graduate had just won the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Championship, alongside his former Columbus Icemen teammate and Columbus North graduate.

Widerhoeft and Huffer have had their share of championship game disappointments. They helped take the Icemen to three state championship games and left as the state runner-up every time.

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They walked into this year’s national title game representing a hockey program that also struck out in all four of its previous national championship game appearances. The two seniors finally won the big game to help Hope, a private Christian liberal arts school in Holland, Michigan, win its first hockey championship.

“It’s really hard to put into words,” Wiederhoeft said. “This team was such a good team. All of our guys have been working toward this. It’s always your No. 1 goal to win a national championship, and I’m glad this group of guys could get the job done.”

Hope qualified for the semifinals against Central Michigan after winning it’s four-team pool. The Dutch clinched a semifinal berth after winning its first two pool play games, which allowed them to rest some players during the third game.

Hope beat Central Michigan before downing Oakland in the championship with 7-5 margins in both games. Huffer said winning those first two pool play games ultimately helped set the team up for success.

“Five games in five days at this level is pretty demanding on the body,” Huffer said. “Being able to rest some guys that were pretty beaten up I think gave us an edge, and we were able to move on. The other teams I think were a little more tired.”

Wiederhoeft and Huffer have accomplished the ultimate goal in their last hockey season, and now it’s time to prepare for the next chapter in their lives with graduation just a few months away. Wiederhoeft will be moving back to Columbus to work a Cummins corporate supply chain, and Huffer was just accepted into the counseling Masters Program at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.

They’ll both be moving on with their lives soon, but not before savoring every moment winning the most important game of their hockey careers.

“It was definitely a tear-jerker knowing that this is the last time I”ll get to wear a Hope hockey jersey, the last time I will be able to play in a competitive game like that with my close friends,” Huffer said. “I definitely had a hard time taking the gear off for the last time, but ending my career on a high note like that on a national championship game — couldn’t ask for anything better, no better way to end it.”

Local Flavor

Name: Austin Huffer

High school: Columbus North

College: Hope

Year: Senior

Position: Forward

Future plans: Accepted to the counseling Masters program at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary

Name: Cam Wiederhoeft

High school: Jennings County

College: Hope

Year: Senior

Position: Defenseman

Future Plans: Plans on working in the Cummins corporate supply chain

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Frank Bonner is a sports writer for The Republic. He can be reached at fbonner@therepublic.com or 812-379-5632.