Broncs win first MACH title in 23 years

By Rebecca Taylor Bludgus

The Broncs have resolved their unfinished business. 

After losing in the finals last year, Rider club ice hockey brought the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey (MACH) title back to the school for the first time since 2000.

The Broncs beat Stevenson 2-1 in the semifinals on Feb. 10 before defeating the University of Maryland 8-0 in the final on Feb. 11. 

 “I’m just really proud for everybody who’s been a part of the program since I’ve been here … This is for the coaching staff before us, this is for the alumni before me, this is for everybody who’s come through the program that this championship is for them. I’m so proud of players, the alumni, our parents and for everybody,” said Head Coach Sean Levin.

Semifinal suspense

Before the game, Levin was named MACH Coach of the Year, junior forward Mark McDermitt was named MACH Rookie of the Year, and senior defenceman Eddie Coyne, sophomore forward Cole Schneider and sophomore goalie Trevor Giwerowski were named to the All-MACH Team.

As for the matchup against Stevenson, the game didn’t pick up until the second period.

In the last 1:33 in the second, junior forward Anthony Zito gained possession of the puck off the wall and scored to give Rider the first goal of the game.

After a penalty on Rider in the third, Stevenson got the power-play goal to tie the game.

After that, the game was explosive with seismic hits, fast play and fierce puck battles.

“I mean it was playoff hockey to a tee. Both teams came out real hard and when you’re in a tight game like that with a couple of minutes left in the third, it’s gonna be a hard game no matter what and real fast and physical and that’s what it was,” said Giwerowski. 

Having already taken hard hits twice in Friday night’s game, senior forward DJ Sucher scored the winning goal by piling over two of Stevenson’s skaters to push the puck over the goal line, Schneider was credited with the assist. 

“It was just evident that we wanted it more than them tonight,” said Sucher. “[The] puck just seemed to bounce around, luckily enough I was there to just tap it in right at the goal line.”

A 23-year wait

In the finals, the only thing louder than players being bashed into boards was the crowd after every goal.

The Broncs wasted no time getting on the scoresheet with a goal to the top right of the net from freshman forward Alex Blaszak, with the assist from McDermitt and freshman forward Aaron Pape.

Rider got on the board again in the first period with a power-play goal from Zito and the assist from junior forward CJ Perkins and junior defenseman Nicholas Pedulla. 

Three goals were scored in the second period, two from Schneider and one from Pape.

Schneider was the standout of the second, on top of the two goals, he played a big part defensively, throwing numerous hits that would prevent Maryland from moving the puck around.

“We were up, but we still needed more to go. I mean, this is the games we play for. This is the reason why we play hockey,” said Schneider. 

Up 5-0 going into the third, Maryland reeked of desperation to get on the board, but were struggling to get out of their zone due to heavy pressure from the Broncs.

“It was really about understanding that the minute that we scored a goal or drill penalty or did something really well, was bringing the emotion back down… play with emotion, but don’t play emotionally. And tonight we play with emotion… They brought it back down to make sure we got back to our foundation,” said Levin.

The goals kept piling on when senior defenseman Christian Wawrzynski scored at the upper right corner of the net with an assist from McDermitt making the game 6-0.

Where they go low, Broncs go high; Maryland’s goalie Henri Pelletier was defending the lower part of the net more than the upper half, allowing four out of the eight goals to go into the top corners of the net. 

Taking the win wouldn’t come without complications though.

Perkins took a nasty hit that downed him for several minutes. “I took a little bit of this sigh of relief when I knew CJ was okay, but he took a hit to make a play, and that’s what we talk about, right? It’s unselfish,” said Levin. “He hurt his back and ribs, and hopefully it [was] just bruises and bumps and he can get some ice but, you know, I was worried because he’s a competitor. He’s such a tough kid.”

Maryland got five penalty minutes for boarding and game misconduct and an additional ten minutes for misconduct. 

Two final goals happened, senior forward Tony Olivio scored on the power-play goal with the assist from Schneider and Coyne, and Sucher scored and dislodged the goal in the process. 

With the final seconds ticking down the crowd erupted and the Broncs’ bench cleared in celebration. 

Giwerowski received MVP of the tournament and was named to the All-Tournament team along with Pedulla, Schneider, Wawrynski and Zito.

“It feels amazing. It’s always a great thing winning an MVP or an award, but I mean, the trophy was something that I wanted even more… I’m more happy with the way the team played and just moving on to the regional and captured a MACH championship,” Giwerowski expressed.

The Broncs move on to the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Southeast Regional Tournament in Springfield, Virginia. Their opponent and the date of the game are not yet set.

Check out The Rider News’ highlight video of the win over Maryland (By Bridget Hoyt)

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