After struggling for most of the season, the WCU club hockey team finally showed Coach Dorsey and the rest of the ESCHL that they are a force to be reckoned with.On Feb. 18, the WCU Golden Rams journeyed to Rhode Island to take part in the ESCHL playoff tournament. The fifth seed Rams kicked off the tournament Friday evening against the fourth seed Colonials of Robert Morris University.
West Chester struggled with RMU this season, losing the season series 3-1. However, the Rams proved their dominance in this game early and often.
In an attempt to generate more offense, the WCU lines were switched around for the tournament. The new trio of Steve Meade, Tom Scocozza, and Mike Kozza proved right away what they were capable of.
Early in the first, WCU took the lead on a goal by Kozza.Dominating the second period three goals to none, WCU showed the Colonials that their defense was no match for WCU’s newly-created line combinations. Meade scored twice in the second, once before and once after a Chris Doyle goal.
However, the Colonials had some fight still left in them. Senior Luke Bennett got RMU on the board late in the second. It was one of only two shots that beat goalie Randy Japchen that evening. The other goal came just minutes later, cutting the Rams’ lead in half. That was as close as RMU would come, as they ended up losing the contest 4-2, eliminating them from the playoffs.
Goaltending was the deciding factor in the game, as the Colonials managed to beat Japchen only twice.
Coach Dorsey said, “Japchen played phenomenal in net, RMU outshot us 38-34 on the night, and Randy had 36 saves.”
The win against RMU on Friday guaranteed WCU a game against first place University of Rhode Island the following evening. The winner of this game would go on to the finals to compete for positioning in the ACHA tournament,
West Chester was outplayed in the first period, as Rhode Island more than doubled their shots, 13-6. However, Meade continued on his torrid pace as he tallied his third goal of the weekend, giving WCU a 1-0 lead at intermission.
Outplayed by the Rams in the first half of the period, URI bounced back and showed why they were number one.
Kyle Krannich tied the game toward the middle of the second and they did not stop there. Three more goals from Jaryd Coleman, David Macalino, and Justin Krute gave URI a three-goal lead with little time left in the period.
With just seconds left before intermission, Scocozza found the stick of Chris Gentile, who buried the puck in the net, bringing the Rams to within two.
The battle continued into the third, as Bob Beggi gave URI a three-goal lead for the second time in the game. West Chester responded by playing even harder.
Meade scored his fourth goal in two games, bringing WCU a little bit closer to tying the game. Minutes later Doyle added his second goal of the weekend and it seemed the Rams had the momentum going into the final minutes.
West Chester pulled their goalie late in the game for an extra attacker, determined to send the game into overtime.
They fought hard until the last second but could not muster up a goal to tie.
WCU’s season ended with a 5-4 loss to URI, but they went out knowing they gave it their all. Nobody understood their effort better than Coach Dorsey.
“It was certainly a tough way to go out. I am really proud of my guys though,” Dorsey said. “They seemed to finally get the message and have bought in to what we’ve been selling.
We beat a good team, and were right there with a chance to beat a great team. I can’t really ask for much more.”
Disappointed by the loss, but pleased by the effort, the team left Rhode Island eager for next season to roll around.
There were many positives shown during the tournament that make it easy to believe the Rams will be a big threat next year.
The Rams will miss their graduating seniors, which include captain Steve Jones, and the seniors will miss the team just as much.
“They are a team on the rise and it’s hard leaving now knowing how bright their future is,” said senior Chris Baer.
Their future really is extremely bright. WCU is a team filled with youth and talent and will most certainly be expecting a huge rebound season and much better playoff positioning next year.
With the young and constantly maturing team that they have, it would be hard to expect anything less.
Kenny Ayres is a first-year student majoring in communications. He can be reached at KA739433@wcupa.edu.