Everything was in line for the West Chester University men’s hockey team to have a rough series at home against Stony Brook last weekend.
They had lost a 7-0 game with Penn State the week before. They had lost Tom Scocozza to an injury and Matt Feeney to a suspension during that game. And, perhaps most importantly, they lost any momentum when they trailed the Stony Brook Seawolves 6-3 in the third period on Friday.
But they won.
West Chester swept their home series with Stony Brook, capping an incredible comeback with a 7-6 overtime win on Friday, and holding on for a 7-5 win on Saturday.
Both games were very physical from the first face-off to the final buzzer.
On Friday, the first period score was not indicative of how both teams played. WCU got a goal from Matt Sklodowski around the 12-minute mark, and added another goal later in the period when Jeff Dugan found the net on a power play. Stony Brook matched WCU however, getting goals of their own from captain Chris Ryan and Bryan Elfant in the middle of the period. The Rams escaped with minimal damage in the first. They gave up three power plays to SBU and were lucky to be tied as they were outshot 17-9.
They were not as lucky in the second period.
The Seawolves came out strong, setting up an aggressive forecheck for long periods of time and ripping numerous shots in on goal. Within the first five minutes of the period, SBU had scored two goals and took a 4-2 lead.
The Seawolves continued the pressure for most of the period, dominating West Chester in time of possession, chances, and shots.
Then something happened that was not good for the Rams at the moment, but may have benefited them in the long run. Steve Meade was speeding through center ice when he was hit by an arguably low hip check. Meade was sent tumbling through the air, and the hit prompted a quick response from his teammates. As Meade was hobbling off the ice, a scuffle broke out that involved a lot of pushing and shoving, and even a few punches.
Meade, who returned soon after, believes this small fight was just what the Rams needed. “I think that scuffle actually got our guys a little fire in their eyes,” Meade said. “We played with no emotion really until the scuffle happened and it was huge that we used it for energy to start our comeback.”
Whether that was the reason or not, the Rams certainly did seem to play with more energy from that point forward. After giving one more goal in the second and another to begin the third, WCU began their comeback.
Their first break came when the Stony Brook goalie came out to play the puck and ended up handing it right to Glenn Monkman. Monkman scored easily, cutting the SBU lead to 6-3.
Minutes later, Stony Brook defenseman Jason Aro took a crosschecking penalty, and a few seconds into the powerplay Chris Doyle scored on a feed from Mike Ahle, chipping the Seawolves’ lead to two.
Tim Higgins scored less than two minutes later, pulling the Rams within one. It was WCU’s third goal in less than 5:45.
The third period stayed relatively quiet from then on. WCU kept the pressure but was not able to lock the game at six goals apiece. It was not until the game was almost over that the constant pressure paid off. With just 10 seconds left in the game, Stony Brook iced the puck and gave WCU one last chance.
They capitalized on that chance.
Doyle scored his second goal of the game, which came just six seconds before the buzzer and sent the game to overtime.
Halfway through the extra period, a rebound of Meade’s shot found Doyle’s stick, and his shot rebounded right back to Meade. The net was wide open and Meade did not miss.
“I was looking to take the puck wide and fire a shot low to see if we could get a rebound to kick out, and luckily it worked. Doyle was able to get the rebound, and I was able to get his and put the puck in the net,” Meade said.
Doyle, who amassed two goals and an assist Friday, was pleased with the determination he saw in his teammates.
“I think it shows our depth and heart that we can overcome a four goal deficit and ultimately come out on top, especially being down our captain and some of our best defensemen with Feeney and McInerney out. We battled hard and showed that we are a team,” Doyle said.
WCU found a way to carry the momentum from the win into the second game of the series on Saturday. Doyle stepped up his performance to an even higher level in the second game.
During a first period power play Doyle charged up center ice, swung wide to the left, and beat the SBU goalie with a quick backhand shot.
Later in the period, Matt Sklodowski blasted a shot that Harrison Welch knocked down and fired past the goalie. It put West Chester up 2-1 at the time, but Stony Brook tied the game late in the third when Nick Dereskey was left wide open in the slot by the WCU defense. The first ended in a 2-2 draw.
The tie did not last long into the second period, however. Doyle, who was practically unstoppable in the series, scored again just 19 seconds in. Meade was credited with the assist, his 100th point as a Golden Ram.
Halfway through the period WCU added to their lead. Doyle fed a pass down low to Gentile, who slipped a backhand past the SBU goalie. Minutes later, Meade found Doyle again in front of the net and Doyle one-timed the puck across the line, earning the hat trick and putting WCU up 5-2.
After Gentile scored his second goal of the game in the third, WCU would not look back. The Seawolves got goals from Mike Cacciotti, Wesley Hawkins, and Pat Foster to bring them within one, but that was the closest they would get.
Bill Pellegrino put the icing on the cake with a long shot into the empty net to seal a 7-5 WCU victory.
That was when a weekend full of tempers broke loose. Mike Ahle and a Stony Brook player began exchanging shoves, igniting a pushing match between all five skaters.
As all of this was happening, Randy Japchen and Stony Brook’s goalie, Chris Hausel, were exchanging words from across the ice.
The two goaltenders met at center ice, dropped their gloves, took off their helmets, and settled their differences with their fists.
Four right-handed punches later, Hausel was on the ice.
“It’s not the first thing that you want to do or have happen, but it seemed like he was trying to go after our guys, so I went out a little bit to make sure he didn’t jump in. He called me out and I wasn’t going to back down,” Japchen said.
Japchen will be suspended one game for the fight, as will Brian Ruskowski who dropped the gloves for a brief fight with SBU defenseman Sean Fitzpatrick.
“It wasn’t the smartest thing to do and I’m sure most people will tell you that. But night in and night out the boys fight for me and Will (Parra) and I’m just returning the favor,” Japchen said.
After the fisticuffs were settled and the clock ran down, WCU celebrated their second home sweep in a row.
In the two games, Doyle collected five goals and two assists, Meade had a goal and three assists, and Ahle had four assists.
Discipline, however, was again a major problem as the Rams took 15 minor penalties and seemed to stray from their game plan.
We got sucked into their game a lot. We can’t play into the other teams game plan, we have to stick to our game….When we played our game, we were successful, and when we played their style, we weren’t,” Dorsey said.
West Chester will have to be consistent next Saturday when they play in the WVU Tournamnent
Kenny Ayres is a second-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at KA739433@wcupa.edu.