The WCU club hockey team has lost its share of games this season. The players know as well as anybody that sometimes a loss occurs for reasons beyond their control. Sometimes the opposition is just better. The opponent might have had an incredible goaltender, a star player that could not be stopped, or a sound defense. However, ask anyone on the team why they have lost two out of the last three, and barely won the third, and they will say that they beat themselves. Over the last few games, the Rams seem to be playing with little discipline. They have racked up 58 penalty minutes in three games. Penalties are something that the players have a certain amount of control over. It is a given that penalties will occur over the course of the game. However, some penalties should never happen. Lately there have been a lot of careless penalties taken by the Rams.
“.The ones that really bother me are after the whistle, retaliation kind of stuff,” Coach Dorsey said. “We need to learn to walk away from that stuff, especially when the other team is going to take a penalty. We can’t even it out like we have been.”
Giving up a power play or handing the other team a power play is one of the most destructive things a player can do. Unfortunately for WCU, it was a constant occurrence throughout the last few games.
On Jan. 28 and 29, WCU played host to Robert Morris University. Shortly into the first game, it was clear that penalties were going to be an issue.
In the first period alone, the Rams tallied five minors. Robert Morris was on the power play for eight full minutes of the twenty-minute period. Luckily, the penalty kill unit did their job perfectly and held the RMU power play scoreless in the first. The Rams took an early lead on an unassisted goal from Chris Gentile, and would add to that goal later in the period. Tom Scocozza found the net soon after with a wrist shot, and did so again minutes later, capitalizing on the only Rams’ power play. WCU somehow escaped the period having only given up a four-on-four goal. They were not so lucky in the second period.
Three more WCU minor penalties left the Colonials with an easy chance at taking a lead in the second. They took advantage of that chance to score. Colonial defenseman Kory DuMond ended a penalty early with a heavy one-timer from the point. Just minutes later during the next RMU power play, Beau Roeder beat Randy Japchen and gave them their second power play goal in three chances.
What WCU was lacking in discipline, the offense made up for it. Goals from Chris Gentile, Chris Doyle, and Steve Meade helped preserve the WCU lead entering the third.
The final period was no better in the penalty department. An early interference penalty left RMU with yet another chance to score on the man advantage. They came through yet again, scoring their third power play goal in four chances. Within minutes, RMU added another goal on a penalty shot. Four of their six goals in the game were scored as a result of penalties.
However, the WCU offense picked up right where it had left off. Goals from Chris Doyle and Sean Coll secured an 8-7 WCU victory. Had it not been for the potent offense, the amount of penalties would have surely lost the game for the Rams. WCU had six players with at least two points in the game. Gentile, Scocozza, and Doyle all had two goals and Steve Jones tallied three assists.
The same problems with discipline arose the following evening for the Rams. WCU allowed four power plays in the first period. Luckily, the penalty kill did a great job of running out the Colonial’s advantage. The score remained tied through the end of the first period.
However, WCU kept giving away penalties and eventually RMU took advantage. The Colonials scored three times in the second period, two of the goals coming on the power play. Roeder and Matt Javitt scored the power play goals and the even strength goal was scored by Luke Bennett.
Those three goals were all that RMU needed. West Chester’s offense never picked up and they managed only two goals the entire game. Harrison Welch scored on a beautiful give-and-go with Meade to get WCU on the board in the second period. Meade then scored on a 5-3 advantage late in the third to cut the lead to 1. Unlike the day before, the penalties ended up being the kicker for the Rams. They lost the game 3-2, giving up two power play goals.
Unsurprisingly, Coach Dorsey was not pleased with the effort put forth these two games. “Friday’s game we took a lot of penalties and let them back in the game. Saturday’s game we took stupid penalties and all three RMU goals were on the powerplay. We handed them that game with stupid play.”
West Chester’s poor discipline continued to be a theme in their next contest against The Naval Academy. Within the first five minutes, Navy found themselves in front 1-0 due to a power play goal. However, like the previous games, the first period was not the killer for the Rams. Doyle and Meade each recorded a goal in the first and WCU once again escaped the period not only unscathed, but ahead.
The second period was the beginning of the downfall for WCU. After a few minutes of clean play, Sean Coll threw a punch during a scrum around the net and was issued a five-minute major penalty. This marked the turning point in the game. Navy scored on yet another power play goal late in the second to tie the game. West Chester kept up the pressure as Mike Ahle scored following a penalty on Navy. Once again, West Chester came out of the period ahead, but the momentum had shifted to Navy following the Coll penalty.
With about eight minutes left in the game, Navy tied the score at three goals apiece. Regulation ended in a deadlock and the game was sent into overtime. The Rams’ luck finally ran out during the extra period. A blocked slapshot from Margadonna went careening into the neutral zone where Navy got possession, went on a breakaway, and scored to win the game 4-3.
While it is very true that penalties are not the only reason for the losses, they were a huge factor. No team can give away ten power plays in a game and expect anything but a huge uphill battle. “Its very difficult to stay in games when you’re constantly short handed,” said defenseman Bob McInerney, “You wind up always in your end of the ice and if you take penalties like we did, the other team constantly has the momentum in their favor.”
If WCU wants to win games they have to start thinking about their actions. They could have eliminated close to half of their penalties if they chose to let hard feelings go instead of retaliating. The penalty kill can only do so much, and a good goalie cannot help the team if he is constantly facing a power play. “.When you’re facing 18- 20 minutes per game shorthanded,” Dorsey said, “You’re going to give up some goals even if you’re Patrick Roy.”
As the season’s end nears, discipline will be the deciding factor in how WCU finishes their campaign. At this point, their toughest opponent is themselves.
Kenny Ayres is a first-year student majoring in communications. He can be reached at KA739433@wcupa.edu.