The #11 nationally ranked West Chester University hockey team opened up their regular season slate this weekend with two games against the #7 University of Delaware Blue Hens. The Rams fell to 0-1 Friday night after a 5-4 shootout loss, but rebounded the next day to beat Delaware 4-3 on a spectacular goal by Pat Johnson.
On Friday night, the Rams traveled to Fred Rust Arena for the season opener. WCU seemed a little bit lackluster coming out of the gates as Delaware sprinted out to a 2-0 lead and had the Rams back on their heels.
The Rams battled back with two quick goals to knot the game up, but were completely dominated in the first period getting outshot 19-9 by a very fast and talented Delaware squad.
Delaware’s Olympic-sized ice surface really played to their advantage as they were able to showcase their terrific speed and wear the Rams out.
With the game knotted at two, Delaware continued their relentless attack and were able to add a pair of goals to make it 4-2.
The Rams would once again show their resiliency; however, and tie the game at 4-4 to send this exciting season opener into overtime. Five minutes of sudden-death overtime did nothing to resolve the outcome, hence the two teams went to a shootout.
With the firepower the Rams have, it appeared as if the tide had swung towards WCU and the Rams would walk out with a win. Somehow, some way, Delaware’s goaltender was able to shut down Jim Gehring, Robert Bushman, Eddie Devine, Mike Longo and Pat Johnson in the shootout and UD’s final shooter made his shot to win the shootout 1-0 for UD.
The Rams came back the next night for their home opener at Iceline, a place that has been very friendly for the Rams, with the Rams only losing five games at home over the past two seasons.
The teams gave the fans all they could handle once again with a very exciting back and forth game. The Blue Hens led 3-2 late in the third period and it appeared as if they would sweep the Golden Rams and leave them at 0-2 to start the season.
Coincidentally, the Rams had different plans. Freshman defenseman Steve Jones rocketed a slapshot past the UD goaltender to knot things up at 3, nearly guaranteeing another overtime game.
Enter Pat Johnson who added another amazing goal to his own personal highlight reel. With less than 20 seconds left in regulation, the silky smooth Canadian forward got a pass from Jim Gehring, wove his way into the Delaware zone and put a move on a UD defenseman that had the defenseman looking for his jock.
Johnson then walked in untouched and snuck the puck past the UD goaltender as the scoreboard read 0:14. The Rams held off UD for the next 14 seconds and claimed their first win of the season over an excellent opponent.
A surprising revelation on defense this weekend was the offensive explosion from Chris Orlando. The assistant captain tallied seven points all of last season, but had a huge weekend for the Rams with a power play goal and four assists.
Robert Bushman also had a big day Friday night, tallying a pair of goals for the Rams in a losing effort. Superstar forward Jim Gehring was mostly quiet this weekend, “only” tallying three assists.
Gehring was targeted by the Hens both nights and took many hard hits, seemingly always drawing double and triple teams to him. The Rams were badly outshot 111-77 over the two games, but the always spectacular Corey Hackney stood tall.
West Chester begins conference play this weekend with games vs. Lehigh and Villanova at Iceline, Friday at 9:15 and Saturday at 7:30 respectively.
The Rams will be heavily favored in both games as they look to defend last season’s regular season conference title.
Matt Chandik is a third year student. he can be reached at MC618553@wcupa.edu