They say that when it rains, it pours. For West Chester University’s Division I club team, this must be a torrential downpour.Before coming into this weekend’s two-game set with the No. 7 ranked University of Delaware Blue Hens, the No. 14 Golden Rams had lost three of their past four games by lopsided scores, including an embarrassing showing at the American Collegiate Hockey Association Showcase in Youngstown, Ohio and a rough welcoming to their new league.
After winning their first game at the Showcase in a shootout over then No. 14 Michigan-Dearborn, the Golden Rams were throttled 9-2 by then-unranked Arizona State and then blasted by the then No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners 6-1.
The Golden Rams would then open their Eastern States Collegiate Hockey League conference slate by traveling to State College, Pa. for a matchup with the then No. 3 ranked Penn State Nittany Lions. The Lions were not the friendliest of hosts, blasting the Golden Rams 7-1.
On the flip side, WCU was able to restore some of its luster by upsetting the Lions in a shootout by a 4-3 margin and ensure their first-ever ESCHL win. Ted Gilbert notched the winning goal in the shootout for WCU. The Golden Rams also continued a streak of bad luck at IceLine Arena for the Nittany Lions, as Penn State is now winless at IceLine since the semi-finals of the 2006 National Tournament.
Unfortunately for the Golden Rams, any momentum they had gained from the exciting win over Penn State was nullified this week as they lost both games to Delaware by 4-3 margins.
On Friday night, the Golden Rams traveled to Fred Rust Arena on Delaware’s campus and lost in heartbreaking fashion when the Blue Hens scored in overtime. Senior forward Pat Johnson continued his scoring ways with a power-play goal to get the Golden Rams on the board. Sophomore Eric Ryder not only assisted on Johnson’s goal, but would also add WCU’s second goal of the night a short time later.
Freshman Steave Meade would cap off WCU’s scoring when he would sneak a shot past the UD goaltender. Sean Coll and Jon Reitz drew assists on Meade’s goal. The Golden Rams were outshot during Friday night’s game by a 42-31 margin, and only a standout performance from freshman goaltender Matt Murnane would ensure that they went home with one point for getting the game to overtime.
“Murnane’s really been terrific for us so far this year,” WCU general manager Dom Bellizzie said. “He’s been pretty consistent and has given us a chance to win games.”
Murnane would turn in an even better effort on Saturday night. The Golden Rams were badly outshot and outplayed in their own building, giving up 50 shots and only getting 21 on target against UD’s robust defense. Johnson would get the scoring started for WCU again, as he took a pass from Tim Margadonna and ripped it past Delaware’s goaltender.
Freshman Brandon Person would strike next for the Golden Rams off of an assist from sophomore Bob McInerney, and senior defenseman Jeff Shockley would round out the scoring for WCU with a powerplay goal late in the game off of a Person assist.
“We’re really young this year, but I think we’re improving,” Bellizzie said. “It’s tough after having lost so much talent from last year, but we think that we’ve got the talent to start winning some games soon. We’re also not generating enough offense, and we have to start doing a better job of putting the puck on net.”
Bellizzie’s words have rung true, especially in the short ESCHL season. Head coach Mark Gonsalves’ squad has been badly outshot in every ESCHL game so far. The sweep at the hands of Delaware drops the Rams’ record to 4-5, and a measly 1-2-1 in conference play.
The young Rams will have to grow up quickly, as the ESCHL schedule offers no breaks or easy games. The Golden Rams have seven games left until a Thanksgiving tournament at West Virginia University, and five of them will be at home. However, they will have to play against Navy, a team that has always given the Golden Rams fits, Pittsburgh, and then traditional rivals in back-to-back weekends in Drexel and No. 10 Rhode Island.
To make matters worse, the team will be without Johnson, who is expected to get surgery to repair a broken hand. Johnson played several games with the injury but ultimately decided that the time had come to get the surgery. Missing their best player for the heart of the schedule will be a tough task for the Rams, and it remains to be seen if they have the horses to tread water during that time in the ultra-competitive ESCHL.
Matt Chandik is a fifth-year student majoring in Spanish with a minor in Journalism. He can be reached at MC618553@wcupa.edu.