Wed. Jan 26th, 2022

For the first time this year, the West Chester Men’s Club Hockey team showed confidence. They acquired eight new players, won three straight games and looked well on their way to extending that streak. However, after a convincing win against Towson, that confidence seemed to be replaced by a feeling of certainty.Going into home-and-home series against Penn State, West Chester seemed almost certain they would win. They seemed to take for granted that wins had been coming easier than they had earlier in the season. As soon as the puck was dropped, WCU was outplayed. They learned very quickly that the eleventh-ranked PSU was not going to hand them a victory.

The first period on Friday began with a harsh reality check. Penn State forward Mike McDonagh wrapped a backhander around the net, beating goalie Randy Japchen just 24 seconds into the game. Following the immediate deficit, West Chester’s play did not pick up. They seemed sluggish, unenergized and had trouble keeping the puck out of their zone.

PSU went right back on the attack. They completed crisp, tape-to-tape passes and put continuous pressure on the Rams. Luckily for WCU, the Icers were given a minor penalty for interference in the minutes following the goal. A half-minute into the power play Penn State accidently sent an extra man out on the ice and the Rams found themselves on a one minute and thirty second five-on-three advantage. This could have changed the game and swung momentum back to the Rams’ side, but they could not score. Not only did they not score, but PSU even spent time on attack during the penalty kill.

Penn State’s aggression paid off once more later on in the first when Kurt Collins blasted a slap shot from the point that sizzled past Japchen and put the Icers up 2-0.

PSU took a few more penalties in the period but killed the Rams’ power plays with ease as the horn sounded with the score still 2-0. West Chester was outshot by PSU 15-9.

The second period began with a ray of hope for WCU. Tom Scocozza pounded a rebound into the back of the net at the 1:37 mark, putting WCU within one. The only assist was credited to Steve Jones.

The Icers responded with a flurry of dazzling moves, crisp passes and hard, physical play. Early in the period, PSU took a two-goal lead after a rebound escaped from Japchen and was pushed across the line.

After both teams had served offsetting roughing minors, McDonagh scored on a wrist shot through traffic. It was his second of the game and fourth on the season. Less than five minutes later, McDonagh would make it a memorable night by scoring yet another goal and completing the hat trick.

West Chester never recovered from the Nittany Lions’ pressure. After another wasted WCU power play, the Rams’ were immediately assessed a minor penalty. Penn State took advantage and sophomore Mac Winchester extended the lead to 6-1.

The third period was much of the same story for the Rams. They could not hold the puck in the PSU zone nor could they stop PSU from controlling every aspect of the game. Whatever shots WCU took were all long range, weak shots from the point. They could not even get deep into the zone or set up on the power play.

Penn state commanded the physical play as they kept WCU against the boards the entire game. Adding insult to injury, Collins scored his second of the game late in the third to put PSU up by six. Seven to one remained the score for the rest of the contest.

Coach Dorsey was not at all pleased with his team’s lack of aggression.

“There was sort of this feeling throughout the locker room that we had proved ourselves, and we could just step out on the ice and be successful,” Dorsey said. “That attitude showed on Friday as we came out from the start and were not aggressive, lost battles all over the ice, and were just down right out-worked.”

He also expressed more concern at the defense rather than goaltending stating that he thought Japchen had played an average game but got little help from his defenders. When asked about what the defense needed to do better, Jeff Dugan was quick to answer.

“It’sdefinitely important to play physical as a defenseman,” Dugan said. “If your opponent knows he’s going to get hit, it changes the way he plays. It’s our job to win every battle around the net and get the puck up to the forwards sowe can breakout of our zone andattack the opponent’s net.

Even though WCU was thoroughly outplayed on Friday, they had Saturday to make up for it. They knew what Penn State would bring to the ice and they could prepare for the fast paced game that would follow.

The game at State College faired a little better for WCU, but not good enough for a win. Penn State got off to a lead late in the first period and the score held 1-0 until the second.

Early in period number two, while on the power play, Chris Gentile buried the puck behind the PSU goalie, who had played well all weekend. This tied the game at one goal apiece but the tie was short lived.

Penn State responded quickly with a goal that caused a lot of tension between the teams. After WCU goalie Japchen made the initial save on a shot, he was plowed into and the puck was thrown loose and pushed across the line. Both teams were assessed a few offsetting minors for roughing and play was continued minutes later.

However, Penn State’s rough play seemed to get under the Rams’ skin as many more small shoving matches broke out throughout the rest of the game. Worrying too much about going after PSU players, WCU seemed to forget that they could have easily tied the game. Penn State scored two more times in the third and never looked back. Scocozza would score his second goal in as many days late in the game on a power play but it wasn’t enough for the Rams. Penn State took the contest 4-2 and swept the weekend series.

Coach Dorsey saw two main trends that he did not like this weekend. The first was how his team responded to Penn State’s physicality.

“That is the style that PSU plays,” Dorsey said. “They like to try and intimidate you and they don’t mind going to the box. That is not our game, and I was pretty upset that we played into the nonsense. It took us out of any flow that we may have generated.”

Dorsey also talked about the lack of scoring around the net.

“We’re not getting any dirty goals,” he said. “No second chance, third chance, gritty goals. We’re just not getting them. Three goals in two games aren’t going to win you very much. We had 61 shots between the two games, which is pretty good, but it tells me that we’re not getting enough traffic in front and we’re not getting to the goalie.”

The good news is these are things that can be fixed. If West Chester comes out with more aggression and channels that aggression towards scoring goals, they have a very good shot at winning games. As for the over-confidence issue, PSU seemed to take care of that for them.

Kenny Ayres is a first-year student majoring in communications. He can be reached at KA739433@wcupa.edu.

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