West Chester’s women’s hockey team remained undefeated after a convincing 9-0 clouting of the Liberty University Flames on Saturday.
The Rams’ offense came to life as nine of the 13 skaters tallied at least one point in the game. Junior forward Becky Dobson put together as good a game as one can have, scoring four goals and assisting on three more.
In just seven games now, Dobson has 16 goals and 11 assists. She is on pace to shatter last year’s mark of 31 points in 12 games. If she were to continue at the pace she has been scoring, she would score 27 goals and 19 assists by the end of the teams’ twelfth game. Her dominance is unmatched.
“She’s so strong and skillful that she can walk through five players. I’m lucky to have her on my team because I would not want to be the goalie she’s shooting against,” goalie Aly Golia joked.
Dobson leads a scoring line that has been extremely dangerous early on. Dobson, Kirsten Baron and Colleen Tweedy combined for seven goals and six assists against Liberty. The three of them make up the top three leaders in points on the team this year, and combined have more goals (24) than 13 of the other 16 teams in the league that have begun play.
“Our top line is firing on all cylinders,” head coach Dave Japchen said. “We made some changes and moved Colleen up there with Dobson and Kirsten Baron and it’s just worked real well. Becky is just dominant on the ice and has carried this team on her shoulders in the past and Kirsten came on board this year and has added that extra punch up front. They are just extremely strong skaters and they don’t get knocked off the puck easily.”
The entire West Chester offense was strong on Saturday. They had no easy task against Liberty’s goaltender but still managed an impressive showing.
“Liberty has a tremendous goalie,” Japchen said. “You cannot beat her straight up so we really worked on getting shots from the point and crash the net. We did that and got a lot of redirect and deflection type goals. It’s the only way to beat a solid goaltender.”
The goal-scorers were not the only heroes of the game. They also had help on the other end, as the defense corps shut down Liberty, limiting them to only eight shots on goal for the entire game.
“The defense was solid tonight,” Japchen said. “They’ve worked real hard in practice on skill development as well as gap control and positional responsibility. We have not allowed a lot of shots on net this season and much of that is due to our defense playing so well.”
Not only has the defense not been allowing shots, they have not been allowing goals either. That is not only a testament to the defensive play, but also to Golia, who has been nothing but solid in net. There is a reason that West Chester has the highest difference between goals scored and goals allowed in the league. Golia has faced just 96 shots in five games, but she has only allowed seven goals. That makes for an astounding goals against average of 1.4, which is fourth best in the league. The amazing part is, the less shots a goalie faces the harder it is to make the saves. It is tough to fall into a groove and basically every save is made cold.
“These type of games where I only get eight shots are so hard for me to stay focused and in the game when the play is down at the other end the whole time. It’s always hard for a goalie to play these type of games,” Golia said.
But she is far from complaining about the lack of shots on her, no goalie would prefer a barrage of shots and a porous defense.
“All of my defenders do an awesome job at blocking lanes, moving bodies, and blocking shots,” Golia said. “They make my job a lot easier.”
Oh, and they can join the rush too. The defense contributed two of the goals and five assists to the cause against Liberty, taking an already talented offense to another level. Having two-way players is huge because they can do whatever the situation calls for. In this case, it was scoring, then shutting down the opposition after scoring.
“I gave the defense a little more rope tonight and allowed them to move the puck up and be a little more offensively oriented but at the same time worked on gap control in the neutral zone,” Japchen said.
But regardless of the score and the dominance, a coach will always see something that can be improved upon. Japchen believes if his team can perfect their passing they can be even more lethal. It may sound elementary, but fundamentals come first, and moving the puck is perhaps the most important fundamental.
“I’d like to see improvement in our breakout and quicker passing,” Japchen said. “Our passing has gotten a lot better but not nearly where I’d like it to be. It’s not fast enough. There is not enough one-touch passing and we sat on it a little too long.We’ll work on that though. I’m a firm believer in hard work and that you can never be good enough so we work hard every practice on the fundamentals.”
As of now, despite an undefeated start, WCU sits in second place to California University of Pennsylvania, who has tallied 16 points in the standings with an 8-1 record. The Rams have 10 points. WCU can gain ground next week as they will be traveling for an evening game against the first-place Vulcans on Saturday. Game time is set for 6:10 p.m.
Kenny Ayres is a third-year student majoring in communication studies with a journalism minor. He can be reached at KA739433@wcupa.edu.