For the longest time, the perception of West Chester University men’s hockey around the American Collegiate Hockey Association wasn’t a pretty picture. Observers never denied the abundance of talent on the roster. However, what was questioned was the character and the toughness. It’s time to put these naysayers to rest. Following a magical run to the ACHA Frozen Four after upset wins over No. 6 Iowa State (4-2) and No. 3 Delaware (6-2), the Golden Rams have established themselves as one of the nation’s elite teams. The Golden Rams ended up falling to the eventual national champions, No. 1 Lindenwood University by a 5-1 margin.
“They’re unbelievable,” departing forward Adam Jordan said. “They didn’t give up more than 15 shots to anyone all tournament. Absolutely unreal.”
While Lindenwood established itself as the top program in the country for now, WCU showed that they were able to play with anyone. They served notice that they will be a force to be reckoned, despite some major personnel losses this off-season.
Jordan, one of only two players to play every year over the course of the past four seasons for WCU, also spoke about his time at WCU.
“It was awesome, man,” Jordan said. “It was really nice to make such a big run with this group of guys.”
Robert Bushman, another departing senior, also reflected on his past three seasons at West Chester.
“It sucks to make it so far and not win the championship, but it was hell of a run that no one saw coming,” Bushman said. “I’ve had so much fun with these guys over the past three years and it was so much fun.”
“My favorite memory [in my WCU career] is probably this tournament,” Bushman said. “But I’ll remember everything. The two ECHA playoff titles, the three regular-season titles, and basically just this core group of guys.”
The past four years have been the four of the best seasons in West Chester hockey history. In 2005-06, WCU went 20-14-1 and finished fourth in the conference as well as hosting the national tournament where they fell to arch-nemesis and eventual national champion Rhode Island.
A year later marked the arrival of a fantastic core of players, such as Jim Gehring, Robert Bushman, Corey Hackney, Chris Orlando and Patrick Johnson. The 2006-07 team etched its name into the WCU record book with a solid 25-win season, including the team’s first ever ECHA regular-season championship. The team ended up losing in the ECHA title game to Rhode Island, but they also made great strides in the national perception with a 6-3 upset of Iowa State. The 06-07 season marked the first season since 1994-95 that WCU lost less than ten games.
In 2007-08, the team broke even more records. Jim Gehring assaulted the WCU individual record book, breaking and tying several records. Some of these records include most goals in a game, points in a season, goals in a season, assists in a season, shots on goal and shorthanded goals in a season. He claimed the ECHA MVP award as well as making as the All-ECHA First Team, the All-ECHA Torurnament Team, the ACHA All-American First Team and also won the ACHA National Player of the Year Award.
The Golden Rams had their best season, this time with 28 wins and their first-ever ECHA playoff championship, a 4-2 win over Stony Brook University. While the team flamed out at the national tournament, it was easy to see that this team was ready to do some major damage.
The 08-09 season, with its 29 wins, ECHA regular-season and playoff championship, and No. 4 overall rankings easily outdistances itself from any other season in WCU history. It is a testament to everyone in the organization, from General Manager Dom Bellizzie at the top to the last man on the roster, that this team has steadily progressed every year for the past four years. The Golden Rams have never had a stretch of time where they have encountered so much team and individual success.
Gehring repeated some of his hardware haul in this season, as he once again made the All-ECHA First Team, All-Tournament Team and was again named MVP. Gehring has a great chance to be named ACHA National Player of the Year for a second time and a repeat All-American.
Pat Johnson was named Second Team All-American last season and has an outstanding chance to at least repeat that, if not be named to the First Team. Corey Hackney finished second in Rookie of the Year voting during his first season. Numerous players have also staked claim to All-ECHA awards during the past few years.
It remains to be seen how the Golden Rams will replace the players they will lose. Jordan, Gehring, Bushman, Orlando, Hackney, Mango, Petrillo and Fenyves have all left their mark on this team, and it will be hard to replace them. It isn’t just the statistical void that must be filled. It is also the leadership and experience void. However, the Golden Rams will still be a force to be reckoned with, and hopefully one day WCU will be able to celebrate that ever-so elusive national championship.
Matt Chandik is a fourth-year student majoring in Spanish with a minor in Journalism. He can be reached at MC618553@wcupa.edu.