The West Chester University men’s hockey team traveled to Lynchburg, Virginia this past weekend for a two game showdown with the No. 4 ranked Liberty Flames. Unfortunately, they saw victory snatched away from them on consecutive nights, losing both games by identical 2-1 scores.The weekend match-up was billed as a clash of two titans, with both teams ranked in the top eight. West Chester was coming in off of a three-game winning streak which included blowout wins over then No. 7 ranked Rhode Island by 6-1 and 7-2 scores. However, the Golden Rams just could not get their offense going on this weekend.
WCU’s Ted Gilbert got the scoring underway on Friday night on the power play as he took a pass from Tom Scocozza and fired a shot past Liberty goaltender Colin Way to stake the Golden Rams to a 1-0 lead. However, Liberty would come back to tie the game up before the end of the first period, as First Team ACHA All-American defenseman Dave Semenyna blasted a shot past WCU goaltender Corey Hackney with 2:02 left in the first.
Liberty would strike at 13:52 in the second period for what would end up being the game-winning goal. Kevin Hendrix took a pass from Luke Aitken and snapped a shot past Hackney to give Liberty the lead. At this point, the intensity picked up tremendously, giving the game an aura of playoff hockey. The hits got harder, the passes crisper, the skating faster, and both goaltenders started stealing the show.
Hackney and Way went toe-to-toe with numerous outstanding saves. In a game of one-upmanship, both net minders seemed eager to show up their respective counterpart. If Way made a great save, Hackney responded with an even better one. At other times, Hackney would make a stellar save, only to see his offense stymied by an even better save by Way.
Time would end up running out on the Golden Rams on Friday night, and they walked out with a 2-1 loss. Despite out shooting Liberty by a 37-34 margin, WCU simply could not find a way to sneak another shot past Way.
Twenty-four hours later, the Golden Rams and Flames were re-acquainted in another ferocious tilt befitting a national tournament battle. Semenyna opened the scoring at 4:13 of the first. Operating on the power play again, he took a pass from Hendrix and blasted a shot past Hackney to give Liberty a 1-0 lead. However, WCU came storming back just before the first period buzzer. Shane McGarry, arguably the team’s best offensive defenseman, took a pass from defenseman Jeff Shockley and blasted a shot past Way.
Semenyna would then ruin any hopes that WCU had of walking out with a win. WCU’s penalty killing unit faltered once again; as Semenyna took a pass from Kyle Dodgson and fired another shot past Hackney to give Liberty what would turn out to be an insurmountable lead.
Hackney and Way continued the previous night’s game of one-upmanship, thrilling the Liberty crowd with great save after great save. However, WCU was unable to tie the game before time ran out, thus leaving them with no wins during the weekend to show for their great effort.
Hackney was outstanding yet again on Saturday night. The senior goaltender turned away 49 of 51 shots on this night, and 81 of 85 shots over the course of both games. Despite the loss, Hackney is showing that he is shaking off the consistency problems that have plagued him in the past. Hackney appears to be back in top form, which bodes well for the Golden Rams’ season.
The Golden Rams will jump back into conference play this upcoming weekend, as they will host Villanova on Friday and travel to Stony Brook on Saturday night for a big ECHA showdown. While Stony Brook went 0-3 against West Chester last season, they offered the toughest challenge of anyone in the conference to the Golden Rams. Stony Brook, ranked No. 19 in the country, should once again be a good challenge for WCU.
Matt Chandik is a fourth-year student majoring in Spanish with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at MC618553@wcupa.edu.