The West Chester University men’s club hockey team took to the ice last weekend for a home-home series against No. 2 University of Delaware.
Delaware proved why they are ranked No. 2.
Sitting at 24-2-1 on the season, the Blue Hens sit atop the ESCHL and gave West Chester quite a bit of trouble over the weekend, defeating them 8-2 at Delaware on Friday and 3-1 at West Chester on Saturday.
Though Friday’s match was a blowout, Saturday was a close game that was decided late in the third period.
West Chester (17-9-0) shut down the potent offense of the Blue Hens for two periods, despite being outshot heavily. Randy Japchen was incredible in net and made close to 25 saves in the first two periods alone.
Japchen, who has posted a 3.23 goals against average this year made it look easy against a team that has outscored their opponents 148-60 this year.
Junior forward Tim Margadonna praised Japchen, knowing the team would not have had a chance in the game without his yeoman-like efforts.
“Randy [Japchen] is a huge part of our team and is probably our best player,” Margadonna said. “For us to have a chance to win against top teams like Delaware he has to be big and come up with big saves like he has all year. He gave us a chance that second game and it just didn’t work out our way.”
Another player who helped give West Chester a chance was Steve Meade. Meade, who has taken over captaincy from the injured Scocozza, showed yet again why he is one of the top players in the league.
Around the five minute mark of the opening period, Meade found open ice and turned it into a 2-1 odd man rush with his linemate Tim Higgins trailing on the left side. Meade fired a perfect pass to Higgins who tipped past star goalie S.J. Broadt for the opening goal.
It was Meade’s team leading 37th point on the season, eight more than his closest competitor Harrison Welch who scored his 29th point with the secondary assist on the goal.
The next 40 minutes of the game were scoreless, but featured plenty of action. By the middle of the second period, play was getting extremely chippy and the referees were letting the teams play on.
Both teams amped up the physicality and the second and third period featured some hard hits, including a monstrous hit on Adam Ball that knocked his helmet loose, and a hip-check from Meade that sent a Delaware defenseman flying.
Despite the physicality of the game, penalties were not a problem throughout the first two periods. Each team drew a couple of minor penalties, but no power play goals were scored.
It seemed for a while that the animosity between the two teams would allow the game to get out of hand like it did last year when Christian Tasker and Joe Mango dropped the gloves, but neither team was retaliatory despite the hard checks, pushing, and slashing that both teams administered.
Margadonna, one of the most physical players on the team, explained why the game did not become about retaliation and fighting.
“As a team, we can handle ourselves very well with the rough stuff. But with a team like Delaware that can bury us on pretty much every opportunity, we have to swallow our pride a little and do what’s best for the team, which is staying out of the box and not putting their dangerous power play units on the ice,” Margadonna said.
Despite missing Bob McInerney for the day, West Chester was able to stave off the Delaware attack until the third period. Then, with WCU on a power play, Delaware broke loose and scored a short-handed goal.
From then on Delaware controlled a lot of the game. Shortly after, they scored on a power play and played such tight defense that WCU was having trouble leaving their zone. Delaware scored another goal soon after, giving them the 3-1 lead which they would hold until the end of the game. Despite a valiant effort by Japchen in which he saved 52 of 55 shots, West Chester fell to Delaware, who clinched the ESCHL title with the win. The Rams will play Delaware again on Feb. 10 and 11, and it will be a very important series for the Rams, who currently rank No. 18, but need to reach No. 16 to qualify for ACHA Nationals.
Aside from the remaining two Delaware games, West Chester has completed their ESCHL schedule, winning three of four games from every team except the Blue Hens.
The Rams will pick up action again on Feb. 3 as they play host to Drexel, then to Villanova Feb. 4.
Kenny Ayres is a second-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at KA739433@wcupa.edu.