West Chester’s DI men’s hockey team lost its fifth straight game Saturday with a 5-2 loss to Stony Brook. The penalty-ridden contest was a microcosm of the Rams’ season, in which many of their losses were winnable games but were marred by infractions.
West Chester allowed Stony Brook to have a power play nine times in the game, almost an entire period’s worth of time shorthanded. The Seawolves capitalized too, scoring on three of those power plays to put the game out of reach.
Like previous games, the penalties were not those caused by aggressive and physical play, but by undisciplined and sometimes retaliatory maneuvers.
“Penalties are killing us,” head coach Mark Gonsalves said. “The stick peneatlies, they’re just lazy penalties, they’re selfish. If you don’t move your feet and you use your stick, you’re in the box. It’s just been bad and it’s been bad for a few weeks now.”
Stony Brook’s first goal came on the power play with just 36 seconds left in the first period. Though outmatched in the speed and puck-handling departments, the Rams were able to stave off Stony Brook’s balanced and ferocious attack early on. For that, give credit to backup goaltender Will Parra, who got the nod Saturday after relieving Randy Japchen in Friday’s 6-1 blow out.
Parra faced 20 shots in the first period alone, and an even 50 for the game. He did allow five goals but three of them were power play goals-hardly his fault. He made quick and assertive decisions, both playing the puck out of the crease and when facing a barrage of shots, and kept West Chester within striking distance for most of the game.
“Parra did step up. He made some tremendous saves,” Gonsalves said. “You can’t constantly save the team and expect stay in the game often, but we did. He made some great saves and really helped us out.”
In addition to constantly facing the power play, Parra did not receive adequate help from his defensmen or his forwards when it came to stopping Stony Brook’s attack. The Seawolves are a fast and disciplined team, and the only way to disrupt a faster team is to wear them out by being physical. There was little physicality in this game after the first period.
The Rams made some good hard hits, but for the most part, shyed away from contact. The space they gave the Seawolves’ forwards was all they needed to use their puck-handling skills to open up an easy pass or shot in front of the net. A lot of the time, they had the Rams off-guard and reaching out with their sticks.
“We are not physical enough and we don’t move our feet,” Gonsalves said. “If you want to stick check in this league, it’s not going to work. You have to move your feet and drag your body through theirs and take them off the puck.”
“We’ve been struggling defensively, our defenders are not aggressive enough. There’s too much watching and our forwards aren’t helping out in the defensive zone properly either. We have a system in place but we still collapse, still run around. We are doing too much looping instead of starts and stops and going directly at the guy with the puck. There are a lot of missed jobs. People are not taking care of their assignments.”
The Rams offense was just as spotty and lazy as the defense in this game. They managed just two goals, and again, most of their shots were taken from poor angles, long distances, and right into the goalie’s pads. They had trouble setting up even on the power play, and with a man advantage in the second period they saw more action in the defensive zone than in the attacking one. The passes were sloppy and forced and sometimes the passes did not come at all. Players would walk the puck in by themselves, shoot, and retreat without pursuit. It was certainly an offense out of sorts, especially during the power play.
“The quality of shots are weak,” Gonsalves said. “We cant’ finish, we leave rebounds, we miss the net. It’s just been the story week after week. We always preach getting aggressive, getting dirty, getting hungry in front of that net. When we leave pucks in front of our goalie, they are going in the net, we need to do the same. [On the power play] we need to move the puck quicker and get more quality shots. We had six power play opportunities when we played Delaware [last week] and didn’t get one goal, and they had four and got all four. Special teams are not our strong suite.”
West Chester’s two goals came in the second and third periods. Senior Tim Higgins scored first, on a four-on four. The goal, his 10th of the year, tied him with captain Steve Meade for the team lead in goals and gave him the team lead in points with 19.
Chris Gentile turned the tables on a Stony Brook man advantage in the third period when he intercepted a pass, beat the defender, and buried the shot stick side for his fourth goal of the season.
With the loss, West Chester pulls even with a 9-9-1 record. After winning six straight games from late October to mid November, they have now lost five in a row.
The Rams are off for more than a month before they host Rhode Island for a pivotal two-game set on Jan. 4 and 5 at 9:15 p.m. and 4:45 p.m., respectively.
Kenny Ayres is a third-year student majoring in communication studies with a journalism minor. He can be reached at KA739433@wcupa.edu.