Thu. Jun 30th, 2022

The WCU Men’s Ice Hockey Club is far from where they want to be. They are far from a winning record, far from a healthy lineup, and certainly far from contention. As dismal as this season has played out, the Rams are also far from giving up. After being thoroughly outplayed for weeks at a time, the Rams still show glimpses of the team they can be. The last few weekends have certainly had their share of bright spots. Coming off four straight losses, the Rams proved they could still skate with the best. The Rams record of late does not tell the whole story. Some luck, aggressive play, and timely heroics have put a little bit of fear back into the opponent’s eyes. On Nov. 12, the Rams played host to the West Virginia Mountaineers. The first period started out well for WCU, but it quickly went south from there. WCU passes were lazy and often turned into odd man rushes for the Mountaineers. Struggling to keep the puck out of their zone, the Rams resorted to icing. This just brought the face off back down to their end where WVU continued to put on the pressure. Miraculously, West Virginia did not manage to score in the first. This was because of the outstanding work of Matt Murnane. Murnane was extremely focused in the first. He controlled all of his rebounds and kept his body in good position to make the saves. What could have been a disaster actually went in West Chester’s favor. Tom Scocozza knocked home the games first goal with six minutes left to give WCU a 1-0 lead.

The start of the second brought a continuation of the Ram’s sloppy play. West Virginia won a vast majority of the face-offs and continued to dominate. Blasting shot after shot, WVU kept on the attack. They managed 14 shots to the Ram’s 7 in the period. Even with six minutes of power play, WCU could not score another goal. The Mountaineers hustle paid off as sophomore Christian Lewton beat Murnane and tied the game at one goal apiece.

With the game up in the air, West Chester suddenly came alive. After giving up a goal on a blue line slap shot, WCU rebounded quickly. Skating with aggression, the Rams tied the game late on a Sean Coll power play goal (assisted by Steve Jones). Regulation ended with the two teams all locked up.

West Chester started overtime with more energy than they had all game. They unleashed shot after shot, attacking the rebounds with aggression. WVU’s goalie was just too good though. He denied every shot West Chester took. This game was going to have to be decided by shootout.

With WCU shooting first, Steve Meade was denied by the WVU goalie. The same fortune met Scocozza in the second attempt. It looked as though WVU would come out with the win on their second shot, but Conor Frei hit the post on a wide open net. This brought captain Steve Jones to center ice. He took the puck out to the right and danced up the ice, firing a lightning quick wrist shot past the goalie to take the shootout lead. The Mountaineers’ last hope was Dusty Campbell. He drew back for a snapshot and completely missed the puck. West Chester took the game in dramatic fashion.

Coach Dorsey was not happy about the first two periods but he was pleased with how his team answered back to the late WVU goal. “The boys really responded and played with urgency from that point on,” Dorsey said, “And I thought we dominated the rest of the game. It was good to see them handle adversity and fight through it.”

Murnane was the story of this game. He dominated every WVU shot and put together an outstanding performance. A pleased Murnane said, “As a goalie my job is to the stop the puck, and to control my rebounds but that is it. May not always be easy but when you are mentally in the game it is much more manageable and that night I just felt great.”

Finally West Chester carried a bit of momentum as they entered play against Rhode Island. That momentum died out fast. From the very start, West Chester was dominated. Rhode Island is an extremely fast and aggressive team. They took advantage of the Rams early and often. By the end of the first, Rhode Island enjoyed a 4-0 lead. This included David Macalino’s eleventh goal of the season, good for second on the team.

The rest of the game faired no better. WCU took way too many penalties and even gave up a short-handed goal in one of their three power plays. This game was definitely the dark spot of the last two weekends. Rhode Island embarrassed the Rams at their home rink. When the buzzer sounded WCU was not only shut out, but lost 9-0. URI had goals from Justin Bishop, Devin Sheehan (2), Dan Lassik, P.J. Vakos (2). Shawn Tingley, David Macalino, and Mike Tait.

There were points in the game where WCU did play hard, however. But Rhode Island’s goaltender was on fire as he steered away everything that came his way. “I thought Friday’s score was not completely representative of how we played. I thought we played well in stretches, but couldn’t solve their goal tender,” stated Dorsey. He was entirely right. The Rams energy was there for most of the game. It was certainly there more than the WVU game. They just went up against a terrific team with a terrific goalie. One huge positive to take from this game was the play of backup goalie Will Parra. He entered the game in relief of Murnane and was solid for the rest of the game. He played well enough to earn himself the start the following evening.

Saturday started out much like Friday. The 15-2 Rhode Island team started up with a full head of steam. Before they could blink, WCU was facing a 3-0 score. This was when they truly stepped up and showed their heart. Meade and Mike Ahle scored later in the first. This shortened the URI lead to one.

The second period went completely to the Rams. Out shooting URI 15-9 in the period, WCU capitalized on their chances and took the lead in the second. Chris Baer and the red hot Steve Jones were the heroes as they both scored to help WCU take the lead. But the strong URI team had an answer. Late in the second they scored again, knotting the score at four.

The lethal URI power play was the difference in this game. They succeeded on their man advantage in the third and never looked back. Adding another late goal, Rhode Island took the game 6-4.

Some people may just see a loss as a loss. But many positives can be drawn from this game. Losing 9-0 the day before, the Rams showed that they had the heart and fire to give their all. The game was anybody’s until late in the third. Coach Dorsey and his team were all pleased with their effort. “We once again proved that we can play with anyone when we want to, and we were right there with a chance to win. Parra played very well in net. Despite giving up six goals, I thought only two of them were really ones he could’ve had,” Dorsey said.

Any team can mull over their losses and feel bad for themselves. This team is better than that. While they understand that they may not make the playoffs, their work ethic remains tremendous. This team draws positives from every game and that is an amazing quality to have. Down sometimes but never out, the Rams are starting to play together like a team that means business. Positive attitudes make positive things happen. An optimistic Meade believes, “It’s going to take a turn around very soon and all of this will be in the past.”

Kenny Ayres is a first-year student. majoring in communications. He can be reached at KA739433@wcupa.edu.

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