One day after opening conference play with a modest 5-0 win over Lehigh, the WCU Hockey Team almost joined the likes of USC and Michigan football in terms of getting upset by a much inferior opponent. Villanova looked to be the Stanford and Appalachian State to West Chester’s USC and Michigan, but the Golden Rams’ Eric Keene scored on his second shot of the shootout to give West Chester a 4-3 shootout win that left many players embarrassed and ashamed.
“It’s embarrassing,” said forward Pat Johnson. “We’re ranked #10 in the country and almost lost to a team like ‘Nova.”
One night after lambasting Lehigh physically and mentally, in addition to being too strong, quick and fast for the Mountain Hawks, the Rams looked sluggish, slow and appeared disinterested in the game. Despite resting some nicked up and sick players such as Eddie Devine, Corey Hackney and Mike Longo, this game should have been something in the neighborhood of 10-0.
West Chester opened the scoring after a scoreless first period when they dumped the puck into the Villanova zone and the Villanova goaltender was feeling so generous on this evening that he essentially passed the puck right onto Johnson’s stick, who had a gaping net waiting to greet him as he easily tapped the puck in for a 1-0 WCU lead.
The Wildcats tied the game a few minutes later, however, as a pass into the slot deflected off the skate of a WCU defenseman past goaltender Ryan Fenyves.
Jon Hendricks would return the favor later as he took a great pass from Johnson and tapped the puck into a yawning net, leaving the goaltender with no chance.
Team captain Jim Gehring made it 3-1 shortly thereafter. ‘Nova refused to go down without a fight and scored two quick goals to knot the game at three apiece.
Overtime solved nothing, as the Rams seemed hell-bent on firing the puck either wide of the net or right at ‘Nova’s goaltender.
Even without Devine and Longo though, West Chester was still expected to win the shootout, but not before they made it interesting. ‘Nova’s first shooter scored on a backhander, and Gehring, Johnson and Keene all missed their shots to leave the score at 1-0 after three shooters. However, forward Tom Waite snuck a shot through the legs of the goaltender to tie the shootout up at one. Nova’s next shooter and Robert Bushman both missed again, and it was back to the top of the order. Nova’s next three shooters missed, but so did Gehring and Johnson. However, Keene took the goaltender as wide as he could before tucking the puck in to ensure WCU’s closer-than-needed victory.
The Rams’ record now stands at 4-0-1.
Matt Chandik is a third-year undeclared student. He can be reached at MC618553@wcupa.edu