By Rob Rose
With only five miles separating the campuses, when Rider and The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) face off, tensions are high. The teams share Loucks Ice Center as their home rink, adding to the intensity. The Broncs won this year’s battle 4-0 over the Ice Lions.
“There’s a lot at stake I’m not going to beat around the bush, this is a big rivalry,” said Head Coach Sean Levin.
The Broncs wasted no time breaking into the scoring column. Junior forward Vincent Arlotta intercepted a pass and connected with senior forward Chris Johnson, giving the Broncs a 1-0 lead three minutes into the game.
Immediately following Johnson’s goal, the physical play began from both sides. For the remainder of the first period, one or both teams had a player in the penalty box for all but two minutes.
Johnson’s presence was felt throughout the game, assisting on two goals in addition to scoring. Junior forward Jake Lukis scored his first goal of the season, assisted by Johnson and junior forward Cole Moskal. The Broncs led 2-0 after one period.
After a scoreless second period, junior forward Nicholas Leelum scored his third goal of the season, assisted by Johnson. The Broncs were able to stay out of the penalty box in the third period and continued stellar defensive play.
In net for Rider was junior goalie Angelo Perri. Making his second start of the season, Perri turned in his best performance yet. After a hard-fought shootout victory over Army on Sept. 24, Perri shut out TCNJ.
This was the third shutout in three games for Rider, whose record improved to 4-1.
The following afternoon, the Broncs had a Southeast Division matchup with Maryland. After an overtime win and shootout loss in their two games last year, both teams were ready for battle.
Once again Rider started out hot — Arlotta scored within the first three minutes, assisted by freshman defender Mike Kauffman and Moskal.
Later in the first, Johnson would add to the Broncs’ lead, scoring an unassisted goal.
Johnson, last year’s leading scorer and alternate captain, is his own biggest critic, putting more pressure on himself than his leadership role on the team does.
“I have always been the type of person that wants to do better and I expect a lot from myself,” Johnson said. But when he’s not at his best, Johnson can rely on his teammates, “as much as I expect a lot from myself I know either way the team is going to be there,” he said.
At the end of the first period, Rider led 2-0.
After Maryland scored and cut the lead in half, Johnson answered late in the second period. He scored his second goal of the game, assisted by Kauffman.
The Broncs carried a 3-1 lead into the third period, but it did not last long.
Levin stressed that staying out of the penalty box would be a key to a victory over Maryland. “Playing each shift and not taking dumb penalties will allow us not to repeat what happened with Providence,” he said. The Broncs allowed five goals in the third period during the 7-0 loss to Providence on Sept. 30.
Just the opposite was what Levin got. Maryland scored twice inside the fourth minute of the third period, tying the game.
A knee injury to Leelum forced him to sit out the entire third period, exposing some tired legs for the Broncs. As in the Providence loss, Rider didn’t have enough energy to finish the game and Maryland took advantage.
Four penalties in the third period led to two goals for the Terrapins and resulted in a 5-3 loss for the Broncs.
Rider’s record is now 4-2. The men are tied for fourth place in the Southeast Division.
The team heads to Happy Valley this weekend for two matchups with Penn State. The teams will play Oct. 13 at 10:15 p.m. and Oct. 14 at 9 p.m. at the university’s multi-million dollar facility, the Pegula Ice Arena.