The West Chester University Men’s Hockey team headed into this weekend’s two-game set against the University of Rhode Island looking to make a statement to the country.They did it.
WCU, which came in ranked ninth in the country in the latest ACHA Division I rankings, was coming off a Homecoming weekend split with fifth-ranked Delaware in which the road team won both games. WCU won the opener 5-1, and then Delaware returned the favor the next night by a 7-4 score. URI came in ranked seventh in the country and had yet to lose in regulation. They not only lost in regulation this weekend, they ended up getting crushed 7-2 and 6-1.
There is quite a bit of history between these two teams. URI had been a thorn in WCU’s side over the past few years. Since the beginning of the ’03-’04 season, WCU was 1-10 in their last 11 games against the powerhouse Rams. Prior to URI leaving the Eastern Collegiate Hockey Association (ECHA), these two teams had been consistently at the top of the conference standings. URI won their first, and so far only, national championship on WCU’s own ice as they defeated Penn State 3-1 at IceLine in 2006.
Senior goaltender Corey Hackney was the star of the weekend. Hackney’s play had been marred by inconsistency so far this year; however, he was at his very best this weekend. URI consistently applied pressure on Hackney, but Hackney showed exactly what has made him one of the nation’s elite goaltenders. Hackney stopped 42 of 44 shots he saw on Friday night, and then one-upped his Friday performance with 42 saves on 43 shots the following night for the Golden Rams. Hackney stole this weekend set for the Golden Rams, and if he can steal two games against Rhode Island, there are few teams in the land that he can’t steal two games against.
With Hackney locking down the defensive aspect of the series, the Golden Rams continued their diverse scoring ways. WCU’s top line, comprised of Pat Johnson, Jim Gehring and Chris Campli combined for five goals and six assists. The second line, made up of Robert Bushman, Mike Longo and Tom Scocozza, also played a huge part in the upsets as they combined for five goals and seven assists in the two games. Johnson and Scocozza were the offensive heroes on Friday as each scored two goals and added an assist. Saturday night was Jim Gehring’s turn to shine. The reigning ACHA Player of the Year was at his playmaking best during the 6-1 rout, as he set up three of WCU’s goals, boosting his point total to a team-best 24 points in nine games. The Golden Rams showed exceptional depth on Saturday night, as six different players scored for WCU. Johnson and Bushman each scored a power play goal and an assist to lead the way for WCU.
WCU will have a rare one game weekend next week. They will jump back into conference play as they host the University of Maryland Terrapins on Halloween night. WCU throttled Maryland in both meetings last season, trouncing the Terps 13-5 at College Park and then won the return game at IceLine 9-4. Maryland will be looking for a major upset, and it could be a program-defining game if they get it.
The Golden Rams will have to be sure not to look ahead to the following weekend’s showdown with fourth ranked Liberty. Winning that colossal two game set would go a long way in cementing WCU’s status as an elite team. However, elite teams make sure they beat the top teams AND the weaker teams, so WCU must take care of the Terrapins next week.
Matt Chandik is a fourth-year student majoring in Spanish with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at MC618553@wcupa.edu.