For the second week in a row, the West Chester University Ice Hockey team faced the University of Maryland Terrapins in a ECHA game, and for the second week in a row, this game was over before it started as the Golden Rams won by the score of 9-4. A week after dispatching of the Terrapins on the road winning 13-6, the Golden Rams came out flying and set the tone from the early going. The team once again rode the collective strength of its top three players- Captain Jim Gehring, Assistant Captain Eddie Devine as well as forward Pat Johnson- to an easy win over the overmatched Maryland squad.
The trio made things seem easy as they combined for another ridiculous stat line, as they tallied five goals and nine assists between the three of them. The Rams were still playing without another one of their top players, forward Robert Bushman, who is inactive with a shoulder strain.
Goaltender Luis Perez was solid when called upon as he made several saves to preserve the WCU victory. The win improved the Golden Rams to a 5-0 conference record, albeit against some of the conference’s lower tier teams. It also betters their overall record to 9-2-2. In the newest ECHA Division I rankings that were released this Friday, West Chester stood pat at number 10. That puts the Rams within striking distance of defending national champion Oakland University, Liberty University, whom the Rams host for a two game series in early January, as well as their biggest rival, the University of Delaware, whom the Rams split with earlier this season.
Some West Chester players granted The Quad an exclusive interview after the Maryland game. Johnson and starting goaltender Corey Hackney were asked about the team’s early-season play, and they were refreshingly candid.
“The team has definitely not played to its full potential,” Johnson said about the performance of the team. “We’ve shown we can play with the best in Rhode Island and Delaware, but we’ve also had some bad games against teams like Lehigh and Villanova.”
” I definitely think our defensive zone coverage needs some work,” Johnson said of his team’s blue line. “A lot of guys need to pick up their game and start contributing to showcase the depth of our roster.”
“I think I need to take some more ambition towards our team’s situation and where we currently stand,” said Hackney on the improvements he needs to make to better the team. “I also feel I need to take more of the blame for losses.”
“I didn’t take any time off this summer so I came back in great shape,” Johnson said of his fast start. “I feel like I definitely improved my speed and it also doesn’t hurt when you’re playing with two extremely talented players like Jim Gehring and Eddie Devine.”
“Well, we have our captains for that type of stuff but I feel like I am and I feel like I need to be a big part of their supporting cast.” Hackney said regarding the leadership on the team.
“Well, we’re looking forward to the Michigan weekend [Thanksgiving weekend WCU will travel to Michigan to play Eastern Michigan, Michigan-Dearborn and Western Michigan], and we’re also looking forward to next semester’s two game set against the #5 Liberty University team.” Hackney said of the games remaining on West Chester’s schedule this season.
Only time will tell how good this team really is. However, if the Rams have any national championship aspirations, the offense needs to become more than the Gehring-Devine-Johnson-Bushman Show as teams will start keying on those four. The defensive zone coverage needs to tighten up as too many odd-man opportunities are developing for other teams, the goaltending will need to go from good to excellent and Hackney may be called upon to steal a game or two.
Matt Chandik is a third-year undeclared student. He can be reached at MC618553@wcupa.edu