The West Chester University club hockey team fought a long battle with West Virginia University Friday night, but pulled out a 4-2 win. West Chester led the entire way, but there were no sighs of relief from coach Shawn Dorsey and his players until Steve Meade found the empty net with under a minute left in the game.
It was a neck-and-neck game up to that point.
As expected, WVU came out strong with organized, quick rushes into the West Chester zone. However, the WCU backcheck proved to be too much, as these attacks were broken up early and often.
WVU quickly switched to another form of penetrating the blue line in attempt to get better looks on goal. They started to dump and chase, which proved to actually benefit the Rams in the long run.
The Mountaineers would wind the puck into their offensive zone and attempt to beat the WCU players to it, but there was one thing standing in their way: the WCU defensemen.
Matt Feeney and Bob McInerney, among others, did not let the WVU forwards get control of that puck deep in the zone. Using effective body and stick checks, the WCU defense eliminated the forwards from the play, and quickly regained control of the puck.
Despite some early pressure from WVU, the Rams capitalized on a chance and broke the scoreless tie just two minutes into the contest.
Adam Ball recovered a puck left behind by WVU and sent a long outlet pass up the boards for Chris Gentile. The pass was well ahead of Gentile and there was a WVU defender ahead of him, but that did not stop the second-year forward. Gentile plowed ahead and took control of the puck near the WVU blue line. He left the defender behind and went to the backhand, beating WVU goalie Rob Borcky and getting West Chester on the board.
Just two minutes later, West Chester scored again off of a rebound in front of the net.
Tim Margadonna found the rebound off a shot from the point and jammed it across the line to give the Rams an early two-goal lead.
West Virginia certainly had their chances to catch up. They continued to make crisp passes and put pressure on the Rams, but they could not capitalize on West Chester’s defensive zone mistakes.
In the first period, West Chester had trouble making the outlet pass out of the defensive zone. Quite a few times in the first period, the Mountaineers intercepted passes before the puck even crossed the WCU blue line.
“I think that the defensive zone was an issue,” Coach Shawn Dorsey said. “But it was because we were forcing plays instead of taking the time to look.”
However, West Virginia could not find a way to score and the Rams’ defensive pair ran them to the boards and took the puck back.
WVU just could not find a path to the goal and they ended the first with seven shots compared to the West Chester 13, and trailing by two.
The Mountaineers closed the gap early on in the second period. Mitch Rosendale took control of a wide shot and put the rebound in the goal, cutting the Rams’ lead to one.
WCU played another solid defensive period. In addition to the hard body checks, the defense was going down to block shots and using stick checks to keep the puck away from the crease.
WCU added to their lead later in the second period. Matt Sklodowski fought hard to get past a WVU defender, dancing around a check and flying down the left side boards. Dan Griffiths joined the rush and as Sklodowski cut toward the goal, he hit Griffiths with a quick pass. The goalie was completely fooled and Griffiths scored easily, tallying his first goal of the season.
West Virginia started to lack discipline late in the second period. A flurry of hits on WVU skaters led Borcky to take a delay of game penalty and slashing penalty just minutes apart. Although WVU killed the penalties, it ruined their chance of trying to tie the game in the second period.
The third started with WVU on an abbreviated power play when Borcky’s slashing penalty had ended. They managed to work a good cycle during the power play and pulled within one goal when a long rebound was fired back into the net.
Both teams played a very heated, physical game from then on out. West Virginia was delivering some huge hits but West Chester was matching their level of physicality.
Once again Randy Japchen came up huge in the goal and stopped everything fired his way after the power play goal. He was quick on his feet and did not panic when there was heavy traffic around the net.
“It’s just training from a young age,” Japchen said You’re taught to track the puck and square up to the puck, not the shooter, and [you’re taught] to know where your net is at all times.”
Japchen saved 29 of the 31 shots fired at him during the game, and he came up with some spectacular saves on great shots in the third.
Down by a goal with just a minute and a half left, WVU pulled their goalie in favor of an extra attacker. Soon after, Steve Meade added his team leading ninth goal of the year, albeit this one a bit easier than the others as there was no goalie to have a say in whether it went in or not.
Dorsey was pleased with the way his team performed against a strong WVU squad. “I think that this was a big win because we faced some adversity and had to work our way out it. We worked hard tonight, and our skill, and especially speed, beat WVU. They’re a hard working team, but we worked harder and got the win because of it,” Dorsey said.
West Chester got a solid effort from many players in the game. Feeney, McInenrney, Ahle, and Reese Lepard all held the WVU scorers in check, and blocked big shots when they could not bump them off of the puck.
On the other end, Gentile, Meade, Margodonna, Sklodowski, Griffiths, and Chris Doyle all had points in the contest and they where physical presences on defense as well. Tom Scocozza did not tally a point but he contributed to the forecheck, allowing high quality shots to be taken on goal.
West Chester will host Syracuse this Friday at 7 p.m. at Ice Line Arena.
Kenny Ayres is a second-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at KA739433@wcupa.edu.