As the WCU club hockey team entered Penn State last Friday, Nov. 5, they also entered into a mode of desperation. Having lost 10 of their last 11 contests, the Rams are only five losses shy of their entire loss total from their sub par 2009-10 season, with 20 games still left to play. Facing a team ranked eighth in the nation, the Rams needed an extremely well-played game, not just two well-played periods, as has been the trend. When the puck hit ice for the first faceoff draw, a rejuvenated, energetic WCU team began what turned out to be one of their most aggressively played games of the season.
Experimenting with a new system of defense called the trap, West Chester dominated early as they forced long passes that were susceptible to interception. Whether it was because of the new defense or the amped up Penn State crowd, WCU played the trap system with extreme discipline and adrenaline, causing Penn State to struggle early on. Around the 15-minute mark of the first period Dan Griffiths put one past the PSU net minder for the Rams’ first goal of the game, and Griffith’s fourth on the campaign.
Taking a power play into the second, WCU hoped to extend their lead and put them on the right track to defeating PSU at their home rink. The Rams did not manage to score on the power play to open the second, and soon after, full strength play resumed Penn State tied the contest at one.
The second period continued to roller coaster as the Rams scored again on a Brian Ruskowski shot, only to have the game tied again by Penn State as they took advantage of a few penalties. As the clock wound down in the second, it was still anybody’s game.
The third period provided an optimistic feeling for the Rams as forward Tim Margodonna drove one home early on to give the Rams an early lead in the final period. However, after that goal the Ram’s were simply tired.
“By the third period we ran out of gas,” Matt Murnane said. “Unfortunately we still had a short bench and PSU took advantage and wore us down.”
Although fundamentally the Ram’s finished the game well, Penn State was just better in the third. They scored three times in the period to take the lead at 5-2, which turned out to be the final score. Even though a loss is a loss, Coach Dorsey and his players were pleased with their showing in this game.
“Despite the loss, I thought this was the best game we had played so far,” Dorsey said. “It was the first time that we battled for a full 60 minutes.” This is something the Rams have truly struggled to do this season, especially for the last couple of weeks. Even though they dropped the game, they showed immense signs of improvement.
After the closely fought battle Friday, WCU looked to come out just as strong Saturday and take a split for the weekend as they played the powerful PSU team again.
Unfortunately, they seemed to take two steps back after their one step forward. Despite a noble, two goal effort from captain Steve Jones, and a second Brian Ruskowski goal in as many games, the Rams’ defense and goal tending reverted back to the sluggish play of weeks past. Penn State set the tone early as they scored in the first minute of play. Things only went downhill from there. Going into the third, Penn State had an absolutely commanding 9-2 lead.
The two teams added one goal apiece in the third but by then WCU was already trying to forget the night’s activities. Matt Murnane was completely off of his game as he let in five goals on 15 shots, a dismal 66 percent save percentage. After being pulled, the second goaltender Will Parra struggled just as much, letting another five pucks cross the line. Afterward, a dejected Murnane expressed his thoughts about his play.
“In the first period I could have cut down the angles better, hedged my bets with the deflections, and covered the rebound off the second breakaway goal, but these are all things that I need to work on myself in practice. Hopefully the slump is over. It was arguably the worst game I played in my college hockey career.”
Coach Dorsey was just as displeased with his team’s showing in the second game.
“I am disappointed by the whole team’s effort Saturday. It was pathetic, especially given how well they played the night before. It was like they were satisfied with coming close on Friday,” Dorsey said.
It is coming to the point where nobody seems to know what to do anymore. Everybody is frustrated and nobody quite knows how to turn things around to try to at least have a winning record in the final 20 games. Look for the Rams to continue to use the trap system against opponents as it gave them some real problems getting any offense set up.
Perfecting the trap could drastically cut down on their opponent’s time on attack, let alone actual goals. Since the goaltending has been so sub par this year, eliminating offensive chances by the other team will prove to be crucial in keeping themselves in games. As the Rams start to try to piece together solutions, there is only one way to go: up.
“I feel we just need to keep working hard and keep our heads up knowing we can only go forward,” Tim Margodanna said. “We need to make sure we play our systems perfectly. If we do everyone knows we can play with anyone.”
Kenny Ayres is a first-year student. majoring in communications. He can be reached at KA739433@wcupa.edu.