Just over a week ago it was still possible for the men’s hockey team to earn a bid to Nationals. Now their season is entirely over.
West Chester’s loss to the Delaware Blue Hens last week denied them a chance in the ACHA National Tournament, and on Friday, their 8-5 loss to Stony Brook in the ESCHL playoffs ended their season completely.
West Chester fell behind early when Stony Brook forward Daniel Cassano scored less than 30 seconds into the game.
The Golden Rams defense struggled throughout the contest, allowing the shooting lanes to remain open and failing to shut down the Stony Brook forecheck.
“Our main problem was that we ran around chasing Stony Brook and we did not lay a body on anyone,” senior defensman Bob McInerney said. “There were way too many times when they had a clear shot at our net.”
All of the time spent in the offensive zone paid off for Stony Brook in the first period. After the first twenty minutes, the Seawolves held a commanding 5-2 lead over the Golden Rams and were out-shooting them 17-9.
West Chester’s goals came from Adam Ball off a long rebound in front of the Stony Brook net, and Tim Higgins later in the period.
The Golden Rams came out much stronger in the second, and managed to cut the Stony Brook lead down to just one.
Once again, it was Ball and Higgins who scored.
Ball, who had only two goals on the season before the game, doubled his season total in less than 20 minutes, pulling West Chester within two. Higgins’ second goal came minutes later assisted by Tim Margadonna and Steve Meade.
West Chester did have their chances to catch up in the second period, but their strong effort was stymied by even stronger play from the Stony Brook goaltender and defensemen.
“We didn’t finish and score when we needed to. Bounces went the other way and unfortunately we were just unable to capitalize,” Meade said.
The third period was when it all fell apart for the Golden Rams, as their defense collapsed again and allowed Stony Brook to score another three goals.
The Seawolves scored a power play goal early in the period to go up by two, and capped their offensive showing with two more goals in the late five minutes of the game.
Stony Brook also amped up their physicality in addition to their offense in the third period. They were not allowing West Chester players to get deep in the zone very often, and were extremely effective along the boards with hard body checks.
The Golden Rams did manage one more goal, a power play tally from McInerney in his last game at West Chester.
McInerney, despite nursing a knee injury, finished out his season and career strong, scoring four goals in his last five games and providing steady play on defense.
The 8-5 loss to the Seawolves knocked the Rams from the ESCHL playoffs and sent them packing much earlier than they had hoped. The Rams played with little energy for two of the three periods and this time it cost them their season,
“In order to get a better shot at winning we should have played an entire 60 minutes, Meade said. “That is the only flaw about our team and it’s what held us back this season from being an elite team.”
“It’s hard to really explain what goes on with us,” McInereny added. “We are our own worst enemy; some periods we care and give it 110 percent, and others we just glide around and go through the motions.”
For McInereny and fellow senior Brian Ruskowski, it was a disappointing ending to their collegiate career.
“It didn’t really hit me until my last shift when I realized this was it… I wish I could have went out with a championship, but everything has to come to an end at some point,” McInerney said.
West Chester’s overall season record was 19-13-0 (0-1 in the postseason).
Meade led the team in points (47) and goals (25) on the year and Harrison Welch tallied the most assists (24).
In addition to Meade and Welch, forwards Chris Doyle (who missed almost half of the season), Margadonna, Chris Gentile, and Higgins, all topped the 20 point plateu.
Ahle was the only blue-liner to tally twenty points, and led all defensean on the team with 17 assists. McInerney’s late push to 8 goals set him at tops among defenders in that category.
While it was most definitely tough for the Rams to end their season this way, it was certainly a vast improvement over last season.
Next year they will strive to be even better.
“We have to continue to grow and move forward,” head coach Shawn Dorsey said. “The Delawares, Rhode Islands, Ohios, of the world… that’s what we’re shooting for. I hope that our guys learn from this year, specifically what it takes to not just compete with the elite, but to become an elite team. One thing that I think that became clear to the guys is that no one can do it for them, they have to not only want it, but actually go out and do it.”
Kenny Ayres is a second-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at KA739433@wcupa.edu.