The West Chester University men’s hockey team opened its season this past weekend at home against Lehigh and West Virginia, and will head into next week’s ACHA Showcase with a surprising 1-1 record.The Golden Rams opened up their season on Friday night with a match-up against an ECHA conference foe Lehigh. The visitors from Bethlehem would prove to be no match for a bigger, quicker, faster, and stronger Golden Ram team.
Senior captain Jim Gehring, who had two goals and an assist, and rookie Tom Scocozza, who also contributed a pair of goals, led the way for the Rams as they defeated the Mountain Hawks 10-0.
Scocozza would open the scoring at 13:25 of the first, as he scored his first career goal with the help of freshman defenseman Bob McInerney and senior forward Robert Bushman.
Senior Joe Mango scored his first WCU goal in over two years as he took a pass from freshman Eric Ryder wired a slap shot from the top of the face-off circle past the outmatched Lehigh goaltender.
Bushman, senior Pat Johnson, Scocozza and junior Eric Keene would all also score in the first period, giving WCU a 6-0 lead after 20 minutes, and allowed the Rams to roll their four lines in the second and third periods.
The second period saw more of the same. Gehring scored at 11:45 off of assists from Johnson and senior defenseman Chris Orlando. Sophomore defenseman Shane McGarry would make it 8-0 a little over a minute later, as he took a pass from Ryder and fired a shot past the goaltender.
Gehring would cap the second period scoring as he blazed past the Lehigh defensemen and roofed a backhand shot. McInerney would score the lone goal of the third period with help from McGarry. Senior goaltender Corey Hackney was excellent when tested, and he was credited with the shutout.
Saturday night would bring a much tougher foe as the No. 15 West Virginia Mountaineers made their way to Ice Line and walked out with a wild and stunning 7-6 win. In a game marred by very questionable refereeing for both sides, West Chester’s defense was the one who blinked first.
West Virginia captain Zach Eckman would open the scoring at 16:12 of the first period as he picked up a rebound and fired it past Hackney to give WVU a 1-0 lead. WVU forward Brent Hart would score less than four minutes later, and less than 12 minutes into the game, West Chester was stunningly down 2-0.
However, they would come roaring back. Gehring would make it 2-1 as he picked up a rebound and snuck it past the outstretched arm of WVU goaltender Chris Wilder. Junior Tom Gilbert would tie it up less than three minutes later, as he took a cross-ice pass from Johnson and rifled a shot past Wilder.
West Virginia would break the 2-2 deadlock barely four minutes into the second period as Eric Wygant was able to pick up a rebound and sneak it past Hackney.
Scocozza would continue his excellent play as he tied it up at three with the help of defensemen Steve Jones and Jeff Shockley.
Gehring then showed the type of play that won him the ACHA Player of the Year Award last season. He got knocked down well behind the play, got up, knocked a WVU player down, then took a great pass from Jones, who had four assists on the night, and rifled a snap shot over Wilder’s glove to give WCU a 4-3 lead.
WVU would tie the game up less than two minutes later, and the teams would head into the intermission tied 4-4 after two periods of play.
The intensity ratcheted up in the third period. Tempers flared as the hits got harder, the puck got more closely contested, and the trash talk spewed faster.
WVU would score two goals in less than seven minutes to give themselves a 6-4 lead. As they had proved earlier on, however, WCU proved they would not go down without a fight.
McInerney ripped a shot from the half-boards that made its way past Wilder to trim the lead to 6-5. Gehring would then come up with yet another big-time play as he tied the game at six with his third goal of the night, giving him his fifth goal of the weekend.
Unfortunately for the Rams, they could not find a way to break the tie. However, Eckman made it 7-6 for WVU at 7:01 of the third period as he picked up a loose puck in front of the net and tucked it past a sprawling Hackney. Despite WCU’s best efforts to mount a comeback, Eckman’s second goal of the game would prove to be the proverbial nail in their coffin.
WCU will have to quickly forget about the loss to the Mountaineers as they will host the ACHA Division I Showcase next weekend. The Rams will face Eastern Michigan on Friday, Robert Morris of Illinois on Saturday and Indiana University of Pennsylvania on Sunday night.
With the amount of attention that will be paid to this showcase, WCU needs a good showing to rise in the polls after the WVU loss.
Matt Chandik is a fourth-year student majoring in Spanish with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at MC618553@wcupa.edu.