After a tough weekend against Delaware, the West Chester men’s hockey team rebounded to win two straight games, beating Drexel 6-3 on Friday and Villanova 10-8 on Saturday.
West Chester’s offense proved to be too much for the opposition as 14 different Rams had at least one point over the weekend, with nine of those players tallying at least two points.
Friday’s game was well played by both teams, and remained close for most of the contest.
Drexel jumped out to a lead late in the first period on a goal by Ross Denczi, but West Chester’s Harrison Welch responded minutes later with a goal of his own coming off a dazzling move in the slot.
The score remained locked at one apiece until halfway through the second period, when West Chester scored three goals in a span of 2:30. Bill Pellegrino started the scoring frenzy, finding the net around the six-minute mark to put WCU up 2-1.
Less than a minute later, a Drexel forward was given a five- minute major penalty and game misconduct for spearing, followed directly by a tripping minor on another Drexel player.
The ensuing 5-3 power play provided West Chester a relatively easy chance to jump ahead. Just four seconds into the power play, Brian Ruskowski won a face-off back to Jeff Dugan, who snapped a wrist shot past the goaltender. Less than a minute after that goal, Bob McInerney blasted a slap shot from the high slot past the goalie for a power play goal, becoming the third WCU defenseman to score in under three minutes of play.
West Chester was still holding onto a 4-1 lead early in the third when the physical play really began to pick up. As they did earlier in the season, Drexel tried to bait West Chester into taking undisciplined penalties with pushing after the play, but the Rams did not bite
“It is very hard to keep your cool, especially because it’s Drexel,” McInerney said. “Our two teams have a lot of bad history together. But, we knew that we had to win the game so we had to keep our composure. When we lost to them earlier in the season, it was all because we had a lot of penalties. If another player takes a shot at one of mine, I’ll try to get him back legally.”
He did just that.
McInerney, who missed the previous game against Delaware, let his presence be known with several thundering hip checks that sent Drexel players to the ice.
“Mac is always our most solid defenseman and it showed today big time,” said WCU forward Chris Gentile. “He plays through his injuries and plays a smart game. He knows his limitations and always does what he has to do, whether its blocking a shot or making a big hit. It’s also great having our defensive leader tallying points, that helps get the team going and he’s always good for that.”
Dugan, Pellegrino, Feeney and Mike Ahle also were a lock on defense, blocking the lanes and knocking players off the puck whenever they tried to set up a good forecheck.
The strong WCU defense corps kept the Dragons off the board until midway through the third period, when a sloppy play by Tim Margadonna led to a Drexel goal.
Just a few minutes later, Denczi scored his second goal of the game on a 4-4, bringing Drexel within one.
That was the closest they would get.
Randy Japchen, who made 28 saves on 29 shots in the first two periods, found his groove and shut down Drexel for the remainder of the game.
With just a few minutes to go and Drexel pushing hard for a goal, Welch carried the puck all the way up ice and scored his second goal of the game. Welch put himself over the 30 point plateau with his effort, trailing only Steve Meade for the team lead.
“The best thing about Welch is he plays hard at both ends of the ice. He gets back and plays defense, and he has superior offensive skills to finish. When he plays like he did tonight there’s not one team or one player that can stop him,” McInerney said.
Shortly after Welch scored, Jimmy Mckee put the exclamation point on the game, giving WCU a 6-3 lead and capping a strong performance against a good team.
West Chester was at it again Saturday, with the game featuring a pre-game ceremony for seniors McInerney, Ruskowski, and Tom Scocozza.
“Mac and Rusky are a very huge part of our team. In all of my years in hockey, I’ve never played with a harder worker than Rusky…Mac is a huge asset to our squad. He brings it on both ends of the rink, whether he’s clearing the net front or ripping a one timer from the point… they’re the kind of guys that are few and far between,” Sklodowski said.
Not to be forgotton is Scocozza, who missed most of the year with a concussion but captained the team and managed 12 points in his 13 games played.
When the game began, it was obvious almost immediately that it was not going to be as crisp a defensive performance as the day before.
The Rams seemed to take Villanova, and it showed when soft defense allowed the Wildcats to take a 1-0 lead just 27 seconds into the game. Villanova then took advantage of more West Chester mistakes later in the period, resulting in two more goals.
Luckily for the Rams, the Wildcat’s defense was not much better. WCU responded quickly to that first goal of the game when Matt Sklodowski found a centered pass from behind the net and drove it home to even the score.
Villanova then took a bench minor for too many men on the ice and McInerney wristed a shot past the Villanova goalie five seconds into the power play.
The Rams tied the score at three with under five minutes to go in the first period when an odd man rush ended in Meade finding Margadonna for an easy goal.
However, West Chester’s sloppy play continued into the next period, when they immediately took an elbowing call on Andy Case and boarding call on McInerney.
In an almost impossible position, goaltender Will Parra tried to stave off the Wildcats’ 5-3 man advantage for as long as he could, but Joona Karlsson finally beat him on a slap shot from the point.
As soon as both teams were playing even strength again, the Rams responded with a goal from David Moore, bringing the see-saw match even at 4-4.
Minutes later, Parra was lifted in favor of Japchen when he gave up another goal. Despite having five goals-against credited to his line, Parra received little to no help from his team for most of the time he was in net.
“There should be no blame on Will Para,” forward Sklodowski said. “He comes to the rink and works his hardest and it really bothered me to see us not play well in front of him…it’s important for the team to come out and play for them as they do for us.”
Japchen entered the game cold, but was still his usual self as he blocked aside several great Villanova scoring chances. Meade evened up the score at five late in the period when he intercepted a pass at the Villanova line and scored shortanded.
Despite taking six penalties in the period and being shorthanded for almost ten minutes, the Rams managed to keep the game tied going into the final period.
Then Sklodowski stole the show.
Sklodowski, who had just four goals on the season prior to the game, scored two minutes into the second period after carrying the puck all the way up ice. Later in the period, he completed the hat trick with his third goal of the game, assisted by Moore.< /p>
In additon to Sklodowski’s two goals, Higgins added a power play goal, Ryan Evans scored his first goal as a Golden Ram, and Meade scored his second of the game.
Meade’s four points on the weekend gave him 41 for the season, just two off his mark of 43 last year.
Villanova managed two goals on Japchen later in the period, but they came too late as West Chester outslugged the Wildcats by a score of 10-8.
The Rams’ final home game of the regular season will be played next Friday against Delaware.
Kenny Ayres is a second-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at KA739433@wcupa.edu.