After dropping a 2-1 decision to the University of Pittsburgh Panthers, it is painfully clear that the West Chester University men’s hockey team is still struggling to establish an identity this season.With its latest loss, the Golden Rams saw their record drop to 6-5-1. By comparison, they didn’t reach that amount of losses last season until Dec. 5, when they dropped a 3-2 shootout decision to Penn State. What has gone wrong with the Rams?
For one, the offensive production across the board has significantly decreased. Perhaps this shouldn’t be considered a surprise given the departure of two-time National Player of the Year Jim Gehring, but WCU has only scored more than four goals in a game three times this season.
The ’08-’09 team had done it more times in the first four games of the season. Prior to the Pitt game, only two players had racked up double-digit points for the season. Pat Johnson, who leads the team in goals, assists, points and power-play goals, set the pace with 20 points. Mike Longo was the other player with double-digit points with exactly half of Johnson’s output on the strength of two goals and eight assists.
Beyond that, there hasn’t been much. While ten players on the squad have at least five points, there hasn’t been a player besides Johnson and Longo who has really distinguished himself on the stat sheet. In order for the Golden Rams to right the ship, someone will have to step up offensively.
Most of the players have seen their numbers drop from last year. Tom Scocozza, he of the 38 points in 36 games last year, only has six points in nine games this year. Chris Campli, who put up 26 points in 28 games last year, has only registered five points in nine games this season.
While it is true that last year’s team was deeper and more experienced than the current edition, the lack of offense on what has traditionally been a very explosive scoring team is mystifying.
What is wrong with the offense? Is it just a question of having so many young, inexperienced players playing prominent roles? Is it a question of severely missing Gehring? The team has not only lacked goals but it has also lacked scoring opportunities, being badly out-shot numerous times this season.
Whatever the problem is, it needs to be addressed immediately. While the team has received some relatively solid goaltending, the fate of the season will ultimately lay in the hands of the offense. With that offense currently sputtering, it remains to be seen how far this team will go.
The latest polls have West Chester outside the top 16 for the first time in four years, and the upcoming schedule doesn’t do the Rams any favors. The team enters a brutal stretch of four conference games against traditional rivals Drexel and Rhode Island, and then games against Duquesne and West Virginia or Ohio at the West Virginia Tournament.
Luckily for the Golden Rams, three of the four games against Drexel and URI are within the friendly confines of IceLine Arena, where the team boasts a solid 4-1-1 record.
These conference games will be more crucial than usual, since the Golden Rams sit in fourth place out of six teams in the Eastern States Collegiate Hockey League standings, ahead of Drexel but trailing co-league leader URI. A strong showing in these four games would vault the Golden Rams into the middle of the pecking order for one of the top spots in the conference.
For the first time in four years, the team is teetering on the edge of the national tournament bracket, and is actually on the outside looking in. While there still remains plenty of time to make an impact and impress voters, this team will continue to plummet until they learn to find the back of the net more often.
Matt Chandik is a fifth-year student majoring in Spanish with a minor in Journalism. He can be reached at MC618553@wcupa.edu.