Mon. Aug 8th, 2022

The diplomacy has officially come to an end. Following yet another upset loss, this time a 4-3 decision at home to the No. 23-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers, WCU men’s hockey general manager Dom Bellizzie held nothing back in a post-game interview where he lambasted his current team. “These [current] seniors are absolutely the worst leaders we’ve ever had here at West Chester since I’ve been here,” an infuriated Bellizzie said. “There’s been no leadership and no team chemistry.”

WCU appeared to be back on the right track during a six-game stretch where they went 4-2, including a sweep over Drexel, a 7-3 thrashing of No. 8-ranked Rhode Island, and an 11-3 throttling of Duquesne. However, Bellizzie was not pleased with the team’s effort versus the Mountaineers.

“Absolutely embarrassing,” Bellizzie said when asked about the game. “West Virginia can play, but I’m just disgusted with the effort, lack of leadership and lack of consistency.”

“I don’t understand what the heck the problem is with these guys,” Bellizzie said. “One game, they look like they can handle anyone in the country. Then, the next game, they come out so flat and it looks like they’ve never played hockey before.”

When asked if anyone was really standing out this semester for the Golden Rams, Bellizzie stuck to his guns.

“Not one of them. They need to get their act together. This is completely unacceptable for West Chester hockey. It’s not so much the increased losses that bother me. It’s the complete lack of interest and intensity that these guys are putting together. It’s complete garbage and I’m sick of it,” Bellizzie exclaimed.

While the recent win over Rhode Island may eventually boost WCU’s national tournament résumé, losses like these will do them no favors if they end up on the tournament bubble as expected. They have been crushed by many of the upper-echelon teams that they faced, such as No. 9 Arizona State (9-2), No. 7 Oklahoma (6-1) and No. 6 Penn State (7-1) and also dropped games to teams below them in the rankings such as unranked Pittsburgh and the aforementioned West Virginia Mountaineers.

“We’re not even close to where we’ve been in recent years,” Bellizzie said. “At the rate we’re playing, we’ll be lucky to make the tournament.”

The most recent American Collegiate Hockey Association rankings have WCU sitting right outside of the top 16 at No. 18. To make the tournament, they’ll have to find a way to sneak to No. 16 at the very least. Fortunately for the Golden Rams, the second semester’s schedule will give them plenty of opportunities to make their mark on the minds of the pollsters. A two-game set at Brad Boss Arena on the campus of the University of Rhode Island will mark the beginning of the second semester, and essentially, a new season.

While voters don’t ignore the first half of the season, teams that come on hard at the end certainly give themselves a great chance at making the tournament. URI has been one of the toughest places for the Golden Rams to win in recent years. A split with URI would give them momentum. A sweep would be optimal, of course, but probably unrealistic to expect considering the way the team is playing right now.

Another opponent that WCU has is Navy who has traditionally given WCU fits. While the Midshipmen currently sit outside the polls, they are always a disciplined, strong and determined team and can give any team a good game. Following the Navy series, a home-and-home with Penn State will likely seal the Golden Rams’ fate one way or the other. If the Golden Rams get swept, they can kiss their tournament hopes goodbye. If they split or somehow sweep the Nittany Lions, then WCU should be in good shape for the March post-season circuit.

While this season hasn’t gone as planned for WCU, there still remains a lot of time for them to turn their season around. The winter break comes at a most opportune time for them, as it will give them time to heal their bumps and bruises and recharge their batteries for the tough second half. Right now, this team is a national tournament pretender. Their second half will determine what they ultimately are.

Matt Chandik is a fifth-year student majoring in Spanish with a minor in Journalism. He can be reached at MC618553@wcupa.edu.

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