It was a long weekend for West Chester’s men’s hockey team, as their three-game winning streak came to an end with 10-1 and 5-0 losses at the hands of University of Delaware.
Friday was just the second time this year the Rams have yielded double-digit goals, the other time being a 13-4 loss to Stony Brook in January.
West Chester gave a solid effort throughout the first 20 minutes, but Delaware’s advantage in size, strength, speed and passing slowly turned what started out as an evenly matched game into a one-sided affair.
The Blue Hens broke a first period 1-1 tie with a flurry of goals in the second. Tallies from Mark Zeszut (18), Chris Voloninno (27), Connor Moore (7), Christian Tasker (15), and J.C. Brancaccio (9) broke the game wide open.
West Chester’s skaters could simply not match up against the Blue Hens, who were aggressive in the neutral zone, creative with the puck, and used their bodies mercilessly on the smaller West Chester players. The Rams’ season-long struggles re-surfaced after the first, and they fell apart in the defensive zone.
“We don’t move our feet, play simple hockey, take the body, shoot the puck or know how to play in our own end,” a frustrated head coach Mark Gonsalves said.
Energy seemed to also be a factor. West Chester’s energy dwindled as the game moved on, while Delaware only became stronger. The Rams took some lazy penalties, and with the force of the Blue Hens’ power play, it cost them greatly. The Blue Hens moved the puck on the man advantage with ease and fluidity, beating Rams golatender Randy Japchen several times.
Japchen, who has been sound in net all year, is hardly to blame for many of the eight goals he gave up before West Chester switched to backup goaltender Will Parra. When the Rams did not play physically, Delaware walked all over them and pushed their way to the net, and when they tried to make the hit, the crafty Delaware forwards side-stepped the hits and often went in uncontested into the slot.
“We simply imploded on ourselves. It was one of the most embarrassing losses of the year,” Gonsalves said.
“It was a tough series,” goalie Randy Japchen added. “Every time we play Delaware, it’s tough. They are a solid team, highly skilled and they play a physical game…They use their size to their advantage and plant themselves in the net to generate goals.”
In addition to their outstanding play, several close calls benefited Delaware, directly leading to goals. In the second period, a Delaware defender lost the puck over the blue line in the offensive zone and brought it back in, but the officials did not notice the offsides. Delaware was able to set up and score on that next play.
Later in the period, a Mark Zeszut wrist shot kicked off the crossbar and was batted in with what appeared to be a high stick. After some deliberation, the officials decided it was a good goal. In addition to the goal, Delaware also got a power play because Tim Margadonna was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and game misconduct for his reactions to the apparent missed call. Delaware also scored on that power play.
West Chester did get one lone goal, in the first period to tie the game at 1-1. Tim Higgins managed to deflect a point shot past S.J. Broadt for the Rams only goal. It was Higgins’ 14th of the season.
Broadt was stellar in net for the Rams, as he got his team leading 11th win and lowered his goals against average to under 1.5 per game.
Saturday’s game at Delaware offered little comfort after Friday’s blowout. The Rams were shut out for the first time since their season opener against Syracuse back in September.
“We lost tonight, but we played slightly better,” Gonsalves said. “We just don’t have the skill or depth to compete against a team like UD. It takes heart, pride, determination, desire and drive to be successful.”
The Rams’ 14-goal deficit in the series was their worst this year, as they had some chances in both games but did not find the net but once.
“We weren’t able to capitalize and we did not seem to be supporting the puck as we usually do, and that’s one of the keys to beating a team like that-possessing the puck,” senior captain Steve Meade said.
With the two losses, West Chester falls to 15-14-2 on the season, while Delaware improves to 24-9-1.
This weekend wrapped up regular season play for West Chester. They will be competing in the ACHA playoffs next weekend at Delaware, though their opponent and the time of the game have yet to be determined. Despite the rough weekend and mediocre season, West Chester is expecting big things in the playoffs and they know what it will take to win.
“When it comes to playing playoff hockey the big thing is really perfecting the little aspects of the game, like being on position on the forecheck, on the breakout, and most importantly on defense,” Meade said. “The goal going into next weekend is to leave with a league championship.”
Kenny Ayres is a third-year student majoring in communication studies with a journalism minor. He can be reached at KA739433@wcupa.edu.