Photo credits: Eastern Collegiate Hockey Association
West Chester University’s men’s Division I (DI) ice hockey team defeated Villanova University in overtime to win the Eastern Collegiate Hockey Association Championship.
WCU entered the playoffs as the fourth seed and faced Temple University, who they were unable to beat in the regular season. Three goals were scored in two and a half minutes leading West Chester to a 5–0 victory.
“Even though that game wasn’t close on the scoreboard, we really knew how important it was for us to score the first goal,” captain Joey Kubachka said.
Goaltender Chad “Chico” Simmerman stood strong in net to record a playoff shutout for the Rams. This was his second shutout of the season.
“It was pretty smooth sailing for me; our defense played really good, and they made my job easy,” Simmerman said.
The semifinals saw WCU take on the regular season champions, the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA). USNA was coming off a 14 game win streak going into this match. The match went to overtime where Kubachka scored the game winning goal for a 4–3 overtime win.
The name of the game for WCU was confidence in themselves and each other.
“We all thought we could win, and we all believed in each other,” senior Jake Harman said. “We all really wanted to win since we hadn’t beaten them all year.”
The team gained confidence from the big win against Temple but also felt the fatigue from both the game and the three regulation periods before overtime.
“We were definitely a little tired, but we knew if we could battle through it, we would come out on top,” Harman said.
Before overtime, Simmerman recalls thinking about winning for the seniors.
“I didn’t want to let down our seniors,” Simmerman said. “I love these guys; they’re like my brothers.”
USNA and WCU were closely matched throughout the regular season. Each game was a close loss leaving WCU hungry for a win against USNA.
“This year it was 5–4, 3–2 in overtime, so we knew we could beat them it was just all about doing it,” Simmerman said
In the championship match, the Rams faced Villanova University for another overtime playoff game. The game winning goal came from senior Jake Harman for a 3–2 overtime win.
“I just remember the puck getting thrown in front of the net, and then I had to hit it at least two or three times to get it in,” Harman said. “I looked at the ref to make sure it was a good goal before I started celebrating.”
Four seniors are graduating from the DI team this year, including Kubachka and Harman.
“It was everything to me,” Kubachka said. “Playing for two decades of my life basically. All the teams I played for, everything I did, this was the last thing I wanted, and it was the most important thing to me.
Ty Hickey is a second-year media and culture major with a Chinese minor.