Three Californians bring home NCAA national championships
For Tyson McLellan and Megan Crandell, the thrill of winning an NCAA championship for the first time almost defies description.
It was no less exciting for Jordan Lipson even though she’s had plenty of practice at it.
The trio of Californians helped their respective teams hoist an NCAA trophy this spring – McLellan with University of Denver and Crandell and Lipson with Plattsburgh State University.
All three are California Rubber Magazine All-NCAA team picks.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling even though it really hasn’t set in,” said McLellan, a freshman from San Jose. “Just the history behind the national championship, not many players have been able to win it, and in my first year to be able to win with such a good group of guys, it’s an unbelievable feeling.”
McLellan, the son of former Sharks and current Edmonton Oilers coach Todd McLellan, naturally played for the Jr. Sharks growing up. The forward’s speed, skill and hockey IQ made him a lineup fixture for a loaded, highly-ranked Pioneers team.
From early on, he was entrusted with penalty killing and checking roles and by season’s end, he was playing on the second line with fellow freshmen Henrik Borgstrom, a first-team All-American, and Liam Finlay. McLellan said the plan was hatched by DU coach Jim Montgomery in the middle of the night before the NCAA Midwest Regional began last month in Cincinnati.
“He woke up and shuffled the lines around and told us in the morning,” McLellan said. “We were excited. We’re really good friends off the ice. We played to our strengths and built off each other.”
The trio combined for nine points in DU’s four NCAA tournament games.
McLellan also continued DU’s honor of having a Californian wear No. 9 – a tradition that dates to Gabe Gauthier, who led the Pioneers to NCAA titles in 2004-05, and continued with Rhett Rakhshani, Beau Bennett and Gabe Levin.
Crandell, a former Lady Duck from Fullerton, won her first NCAA title in her first season at Plattsburgh after playing two seasons at St. Norbert College and then transferring last season to Plattsburgh. Lipson, a senior from Davis, finished her college career with four consecutive Division III championships.
“Obviously, it’s unbelievable (to win four) and it’s an amazing feeling,” said Lipson, who played for the Capital Thunder, the San Jose Jr. Sharks and LA Selects. “In one of the speeches at our banquet, someone said our class never ended their season with a loss. That’s when it set in.
“That really put it in perspective. I’m so proud of my teammates.”
Lipson’s 31 points and 14 goals were third on the team, and she surpassed the 100-point plateau for her college career late in the regular season. She added a goal and an assist in three NCAA tournament games.
“Jordan is a very underrated player,” Crandell said. “Her points come in key situations. The second time we played (championship foe) Adrian, she scored the game-winning goal in overtime.”
Crandell stepped into an established powerhouse as an outsider, but she said she was never made to feel that way.
“Being new, this team was extremely welcoming,” said the defenseman, whose 29 points were fourth most on the team. “Our seniors have won four national championships. To come right in and be welcomed in and fit on their power play and penalty kill, it felt really good to step in and make a difference. It took some time to adjust. After winter break, I hit my stride.”
Six of Crandell’s 26 assists came in three NCAA tournament games, including three in the 4-3 OT victory in the final.
“She added a lot to the team defensively and offensively,” Lipson said. “She’s so consistent and has a huge reach with her stick, being tall (5-foot-8).
“It was a huge help having her.”
TOP PHOTO: Tyson McLellan (9) and fellow freshmen Henrik Borgstrom and Liam Finlay formed a potent line for national champion Denver. Photo/Shannon Valerio/DU Athletics
— Chris Bayee