The West Chester University men’s ice hockey team has officially established itself as the most confusing and maddening sports team on campus. There are times where they can look like one of the nation’s top teams and showcase an ability to skate with any team in the country. During these games, the passing is crisp, the skating is smooth, and the team plays so smoothly that some people could wonder if this group of players has played together for their entire life.
During other games, it looks as if someone called together an impromptu open hockey session. The effort is noticeably lacking, the players look sluggish, and the Golden Rams play down to the level of their competition.
The biggest problem with the Golden Rams is that they don’t “get up” for every single game. While no team ever gets up for every single game, there is a frightening pattern with the Golden Rams. They generally only show up for the big boys of the ACHA.
Throw the likes of Penn State, Delaware and Rhode Island at them and you’ll most likely watch the best the Golden Rams have to offer. Every player on the team realizes the magnitude of these games and it shows on the ice. The effort is always there, the mental preparedness is evident, and because of this, the Golden Rams have recently done very well against elite teams.
However, the Golden Rams’ biggest problem is their inability to consistently show up for games against teams that aren’t renown as national powers. They constantly allow weaker teams to stay in the game with them, as evidenced by close games against Eastern Michigan, West Virginia, Towson, Maryland and most recently Navy.
The Golden Rams barely beat EMU, lost to West Virginia, beat Towson in overtime, allowed seven goals to Maryland, and lost to Navy. None of these teams have the pure ability to stay within four or five goals of WCU if the Golden Rams are on their game.
Unfortunately, the Golden Rams are rarely at their peak against weak teams. Whether it is a motivation, coaching, or mental issue, it is something that needs to be resolved. While the first half of the schedule contained a number of elite teams, the second half figures to be significantly less daunting.
The Golden Rams need to start taking some of the lesser-known teams on their schedule more seriously. It has been said that hard work beats talent, and maybe that’s why the Golden Rams have faltered against some sub-par teams.
I say that’s garbage. Hard work alone doesn’t beat talent. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. There have been whispers from long-time observers of the team that perhaps the team is “soft” and that it lacks mental toughness. Maybe they are soft. Maybe they’re not.
As I alluded to earlier, I don’t know what the problem is. Is it mental? Is it a coaching issue? Perhaps motivation? Whatever it is, the Golden Rams would be wise to address the issue now before it becomes a crippling long-term factor.
They are too skilled and too talented to play down to the level of weaker teams. There is only a handful of teams that can beat the Golden Rams. The only problem is that the Golden Rams are arguably the biggest threat to themselves. It would be a shame to see such a talented team go down from self-inflicted wounds.
Matt Chandik is a fourth-year student majoring in Spanish with a minor in Journalism. He can be reached at MC618553@wcupa.edu.