After easily dispatching the Navy team 10-3 Friday night, the WCU Hockey Team faced a formidable opponent in the West Virginia Mountaineers, currently ranked #12 in the country, with WCU a spot lower. Many were expecting a tight game, and the two ECHA powerhouses did not disappoint as they battled it out in a slugfest which ended in a 6-4 WCU victory. Though Saturday’s game was meant to celebrate seniors Rob Troxell, Bob Kenworthy and Bob Jones’ final home game in West Chester, it quickly became a celebration of the underclassmen, who showed that there is a bright future for West Chester hockey.
Goals by sophomore Ed Devine and freshman Pat Johnson, along with sensational goaltending from freshman Corey Hackney, made it perfectly clear that the future is secure for the Golden Rams, despite the
graduation of their leadership.
The teams traded goals until WCU made it 3-2 after 40 minutes, the Mountaineers came out firing. After being handed a five on three power play due to some very dubious officiating, WVU tied it up as a WVU defenseman was able to walk around the entire WCU team and sneak a wrist shot past Hackney. With seven minutes left in the game, West Virginia’s Bill Haas fired a wrist shot past Hackney, resulting in the first West Virginia lead of the game and silencing a rather raucous West Chester crowd. It appeared as if this would doom West Chester, especially when a Jim Gehring slap shot clanged off the post
However, West Chester would not be denied. With West Chester on a power play, Devine slid down into the West Virginia zone while drawing three WVU players to him, and then spotted a wide-open Gehring who proceeded to rocket a one-timer over Kret’s outstretched glove. With the score knotted at four apiece, it appeared that this game was ticketed for overtime. However, it was the least-heralded senior who would come up big in the clutch. Senior defenseman Bobby Jones, who had to sit out the previous night’s game against Navy due to illness and appeared to be a game-time decision for Senior Night, picked up a loose puck in the West Virginia zone and uncorked a slap shot which screamed its way over Kret’s blocker and sent the partisan West Chester crowd into a massive frenzy.
With less than one minute to play in the game, West Virginia pulled Kret in favor of an extra attacker hoping to squeeze in a last minute equalizer, but sophomore Bobby Bushman cleanly won a face off and was able to control the pace of the game in the corners and then chipped the puck out of the zone. Devine won a one-on-one puck race with a West Virginia defenseman and was able to barely get his stick on the puck and chip it into the gaping net. This would be the final goal of the game and extended the WCU lead to 6-4.
This was a huge win for West Chester as it keeps them in the hunt for their first ever ECHA regular season championship, as they are now 16-1 in the conference, a half-game ahead of Rhode Island, who is 15-1. Winning the conference’s regular-season title carries in itself an automatic bid to the National Tournament, held in Youngstown, Ohio. West Chester only needs to beat West Virginia next week to clinch the title. West Chester easily ranks as one of the hottest teams in the country right now as they are 18-2 in their last 20 games, with impressive wins over #2 Penn State, #4 Rhode Island and then #10 Delaware. WCU will next travel to Pittsburgh next week for an out of conference game with the Panthers on Friday before the showdown with West Virginia next Saturday in Morgantown.
News and Notes: The three seniors were honored in a pre-game ceremony, marking their final home game for WCU. Kenworthy notched a power play goal during the game, his 10th power play goal of the year, which breaks the old record of 9 set in 03-04 by Chris Manigrassi for most power play goals by a WCU defenseman. Kenworthy also broke the WCU record for most shots on goal in one season. Devine came up with arguably his best performance of the season as he tallied 5 points on the strength of two goals and 3 assists. Gehring could possibly break the record for most goals in WCU history, as he currently has 29, and the record is 35.