With WCU hockey’s Senior Night scheduled this weekend against sacrificial lamb Sienna, the Golden Rams will not only be finishing out their regular-season schedule, but will also be fine-tuning their skills for the post-season which starts one week later. The Golden Rams will be hosting the Eastern Collegiate Hockey Association’s playoff tournament on the weekend of Mar. 6-8. The Golden Rams have already clinched their school-record third straight regular-season ECHA championship and will consequently be the top seed in the tournament for the third straight year.
The Golden Rams appeared to finally piece everything together against a lower-ranked team with a 6-1 pasting of 16th ranked Duquesne University this past weekend despite the absence of captain Jim Gehring who is currently with Team USA for the World University Games in Beijing, China.
With their recent mediocre play, the Golden Rams have suffered in the national polls as they dropped from the eighth spot to their current standing of 11th. The Duquesne win serves notice that the Golden Rams are raring to go for the playoffs.
To be honest, I expected a WCU team sans Gehring to play this game down to the wire. However, they proved me wrong and crushed a very good Dukes team. This bodes extremely well for the playoffs, and it bodes extremely terrible things for whomever the Golden Rams will have to face.
The ECHA standings will, with a 99 percent certainty, finish in this order. West Chester, Stony Brook, Towson, Villanova, Lehigh, Maryland. The top two teams, WCU and SBU, will receive byes through the tournament’s opening round.
This will then leave Towson to play Maryland and Villanova to play Lehigh. The Golden Rams would end up playing the lowest-ranked team remaining, likely the winner of Villanova vs. Lehigh. Neither should really provide a stiff test for the Golden Rams, but WCU should expect a rubber match with SBU in the finals should WCU make it. Stony Brook is one of the country’s hottest teams as they have defeated the likes of Delaware, Iowa State, URI, Liberty and WCU since December.
However, one would be foolish to think that WCU head coach Mark Gonsalves won’t be reminding his team who beat them during every single minute of practice. Due to the fact that these two teams are the only good ones in the ECHA and the only ones with any chance to win the ECHA title and represent the conference in the national tournament, it is safe to say that this has developed into a full-blown rivalry.
Neither team cares at all for the other, and both would love to knock off the other in order to get the conference’s playoff championship. If the Golden Rams can defend their own turf and hoist the trophy, they might play their way back into a top eight seed for the national tournament. Pollsters always look at quality wins when ranking teams. Right now, winning the conference by going through one of the hottest teams in the country would certainly leave a lasting impression on the pollsters.
Matt Chandik is a fourth-year student majoring in Spanish with a minor in Journalism. He can be reached at MC618553@wcupa.edu.