The WCU club hockey team’s season got underway Friday, as they rolled to a convincing 8-2 win over the Towson Tigers.
West Chester blew the game open early by scoring five goals in the first period. The Rams never looked back and Towson never got close.
West Chester dominated the first period by playing a physical, disciplined brand of hockey, which enabled them to score early and often.
WCU got the scoring started just 28 seconds into the game, as Tim Higgins found the net and set the stage for the Rams offense.
Minutes later, after a missed power play opportunity, the Rams scored three times in less than three minutes on goals from Matt Sklodowski, Brian Ruskowski and Chris Gentile.
To cap it off, a Towson player broke his stick on a power play, which allowed Ruskowski to score his second goal of the game, this one short-handed.
Physicality was the big difference in the game.
The Rams came onto the ice and immediately set up an aggressive forecheck in the Towson zone. When Towson gained control they were quickly pushed off the puck.
This set up 20 shots on goal in the first for WCU, compared to just six for Towson.
Matt Feeney and Bob McInerny were a big part of why Towson managed only six shots in twenty minutes.
Both defenseman delivered crushing hits to the Towson forwards, knocking them off the puck and often onto the ice. The hits were organized and disciplined, as the players stayed where they belonged on the ice and checked anyone that tried to carry the puck deep.
Feeney believes that Towson was tentative to set up because of how physical WCU was all game.
“Towson just couldn’t handle it from the start of the first shift,” Feeney said. “It just made it that much easier to beat them because they would just cough up the puck the second they picked it up.”
The second period was not as crisp for the Rams. They seemed to stray from their game plan and began taking sloppy penalties. It was almost as though the Rams began trying to be more physical than they needed to be and it resulted in a handful of charging, holding, and roughing penalties.
Dorsey let is slide for this game, but knows his team cannot keep taking these undisciplined penalties.
“It’s another area of the game that we need consistency in. Against better competition, we can’t be taking six penalties in a game, let alone a single period. Hopefully that was the effect of some jitters from not playing in a while and we won’t have that anymore.”
However, even with a few power plays, Towson just could not mount a comeback. They did score twice in the period, but only one was a power play goal.
The Rams quieted the Tigers’ attempt at a comeback when they got a huge play from Mike Ahle on a power play.
The 5-foot-ten-inch, 175 pound defenseman delivered two huge hits in a matter of seconds. He then gained control of the puck and made a tape- to- tape pass to Harrsion Welch, who walked right in and scored. This play shut down the Tigers’ momentum and ended their chances of a possible second period comeback.
Minutes later, Sklodowski scored his second of the game and WCU had regained their five goal lead. After two periods, West Chester more than doubled Towson in shots, leading 33-15.
The third period started out with the Rams on a 5-3 disadvantage, but airtight defense and stellar goaltending killed both penalties without even letting Towson make a decent rush.
Gentile then stole the show. The stocky forward took off down the right wing, blowing by two attempts at hits, and fired a quick wrist shot into the top left corner of the goal. He became the third player of the night to score twice for West Chester. Although he did not score again, he had plenty of chances as he deked Towson defenders and got several good looks on goal in the third.
Dorsey spoke highly of his forward after the game.
“Gentile is an awesome talent. He has tons of speed, good hands, and a knack for the puck. When he wants to be, he’s one of the best, and most effective players in the league. Even when he doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, he’s still effective because he commands a lot of attention and opens up space for his linemates.”
The Gentile-Doyle-Welch line worked extremely well in the game. They combined for three goals and two assists in the contest.
“Chris, Doyle and Welch have very good chemistry, and are all great players,” Dorsey said. “They’re very difficult to match up with.”
One of the unsung heroes of the game was Randy Japchen. He saved all but two Towson shots and never seemed to be out of position. His solid play in the net helped WCU maintain their lead throughout the game.
The West Chester players know they played a great game and picked up a big win, bit they also know there are a few things to work on. Penalties were the one aspect of the game that WCU needs to address.
“It’s very important [that we do not take penalties] because we don’t want to give them any chances to get back in the game. If we let them take penalties rather then us taking them, it makes it a lot easier for us to get the win,” Feeney said.
Dorsey and the Rams are not satisfied with just winning. They want to play the best brand of hockey they can all season long and not take their foot off the gas.
“It was a good to get the win, and it gives us something to go off of and build on, but there’s a lot of room for improvement,” Dorsey said.
The Rams will have to make these improvements on the road, as they do not have another home game until Oct. 22 when they host West Virginia. Next weekend they will participate in the IUP tournament and are scheduled to play West Virginia on Friday, Pittsburgh on Saturday, and IUP on Sunday.
Kenny Ayres is a second-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at KA739433@wcupa.edu.