For the past couple of years, there has been something missing from the West Chester University Men’s Hockey team. It has been arguably their biggest weakness, and it has held them back from reaching their full potential. That weakness has been consistent secondary scoring to complement the likes of Jim Gehring and Pat Johnson, and through the recruiting efforts of the WCU coaching staff, it appears to be a problem of the past.
Rookie Tom Scocozza has made an immediate impact on the team. He has consistently been an offensive threat for the Rams. Heading into this weekend’s tilt with Delaware, Scocozza had notched four goals and added six assists in just five games. Playing on a line with Robert Bushman and Mike Longo, Scocozza has carved himself a niche as a good playmaker who can also put the puck in the net.
Bushman has been his usual steady self. One of the more physical players on the team, Bushman displays a deft touch around the net. Heading into the weekend, his four goal, five assist stat line was tied for fourth on the team. He is remarkably consistent and is one of the country’s best at working in front of the net on the power play. Of his 41 career goals, 22 have come with the man advantage, and there are few who can wreak as much havoc in front of the net as he can.
Mike Longo has continued his stellar play from last year. A year after averaging exactly one point per game, Longo is well ahead of that pace this season. His nine points in five games ties him with Bushman for fourth on the team. The speedy forward has also been a special teams demon, as he has scored one power play goal and one of West Chester’s two short-handed goals.
“That line [Scocozza-Bushman-Longo] has done a great job so far,” forward Pat Johnson said. “They do a really good job of cycling the puck and creating scoring chances.”
“[The secondary scoring] has been great because there isn’t all that pressure [on the first line] to carry the whole team,” Johnson added.
Johnson also went on to praise the line of Joe Mango, Adam Jordan, and Eric Keene.
“Mango has been great for us so far. He doesn’t ever stop hustling, and that rubs off on the team,” said Johnson.
Mango has notched a goal and two assists in the short season. Keene has also tallied one goal, while Jordan has been held scoreless. However, Jordan is one of the best penalty-killers in the entire country, and has been for the past few seasons. He is one of the reasons why so few power play goals are scored against West Chester.
“As far as the rest of the team, Ted Gilbert has been really impressive so far,” said Johnson.
Gilbert is currently out with a foot injury but is expected back soon. The talented transfer from Indiana University of Pennsylvania has scored three goals in three games, and figures to add even more depth to the team once his injury heals. Gilbert will likely form a talented fourth line with Tom Haeberle, who has scored a goal in limited duty so far, as well as Drew Gregoire. Together, the trio could create even more scoring opportunities for the Rams.
Surprisingly, some of the highest scorers on the team haven’t been coming from the group of forwards. The talented group of defensemen on the team has provided a huge boost to the offense. Shane McGarry, Robert McInerney and Steve Jones have all tallied five points, highlighted by Jones’ four assist performance against West Virginia. Chris Orlando has also made a profound impact with his two goals and two assists. Orlando does a great job of quarterbacking an explosive Golden Rams power play, and his stats are likely due for a meteoric rise.
Secondary scoring has been something that followers of the team, including yours truly, have harped on for the past few years. With a great recruiting class and improved play from last year’s holdovers, this team is deeper, more explosive and less reliant on the Jim Gehring and Pat Johnson Show. If the team continues to spread out the scoring, it will take a ton of pressure off of Gehring and Johnson, allowing them more opportunities to score. In the end, if the team continues to showcase its depth as it has so far, there will be few teams that will be able to stop them, if any.
Matt Chandik is a fourth-year student majoring in Spanish with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at MC618553@wcupa.edu.