By David Pavlak
The Broncs have been waiting for their next opportunity to come home with the MACHA championship since the disappointing finish to last year. The loss to UMBC in the finals, seeing the Retrievers celebrating on Rider’s ice and starting the season knowing they were the best team in the MACHA made the Broncs hungry for victory.
This year, however, would not be the year that Rider (22-6) was able to come home with the elusive trophy, after being shut down by Rowan (14-15-3) 6-1 in the first round of the playoffs this past Friday.
Rider faced Rowan two times earlier this season. The Broncs came out on top of both of those contests, 7-4 and 7-6.
When it mattered most though, with all the fans in the stands cheering on their team, the Broncs failed to produce a performance worthy of moving on in the playoffs. In short, the skating was sluggish, the passing was choppy and the whole team seemed to be in disarray.
Senior captain D.J. Nork tried to make sense of the breakdowns in the game.
“In the offensive zone we didn’t do a good job of keeping the third guy high,” Nork said. “Also, when we got in the offensive zone, we would often dump the puck and no one was there to pick it up so [Rowan’s] defense had an easy time breaking out of their zone. Also, we didn’t forecheck very hard and didn’t put a whole lot of pressure on their defense. We knew their defense was weak but were never really able to get anything going offensively.”
After its 22-5 season, the Broncs seemed to have all the momentum they needed going into these playoffs. Plenty of time and preparation were spent in an attempt to formulate the perfect defense to stifle the attack of Rowan’s most dangerous player.
However, Rowan easily dismissed the Broncs’ system. Rowan would score two goals in each period against the Broncs, ultimately sending the team and the crowd home unhappy.
Sophomore Frank Garvey was able to score a power play goal midway through the second period to possibly start any hope of a comeback, but that attempt fell short.
With the season in the rearview mirror now, the Broncs can look back at the different milestones they have reached.
“I had a great career at Rider,” Nork said. “We won a lot of games but more importantly had fun doing it. This season in particular, I felt that we were much better than most teams we played and felt that no one could really beat us. We have had a few bad games, but it happens to any team. We broke Rider’s single-season record and there’s not a whole lot more you can ask for.”
A key milestone for Rider throughout the season included setting the mark for most wins in a season with 22.
Also, Garvey finished first in scoring in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) with 47 goals, which also breaks the old Rider ice hockey record of 40. Nork finished ninth in the ACHA in assists with 42.