By Carlos Toro
After last year’s impressive run in the MACHA playoffs, the Rider club ice hockey team faced off for the first time in its 2015-16 campaign, beating West Chester on Sept. 26 before losing the home opener to William Paterson the following day.
Head Coach Sean Levin said that despite the loss on Sept. 27, he is still happy with the team’s progress after two games.
“In five of the six periods we played this season, we only gave up four goals,” Levin said. “Overall, we had a strong weekend minus the third period of Sunday’s game. There were a lot of positives from our weekend, and we saw contributions from both the offense and defense.”
After a scoreless first period at West Chester, Rider’s offense lit up in the second period, netting three goals. The first of the season came from sophomore forward Christopher Johnson around the 11:00 mark of the period.
On a power play, the Broncs were able to extend the lead further. Sophomore forward Michael Katz notched his first goal of the season to make it 2-0, followed by a wrist shot into the upper left corner by junior defenseman Brett Ansbacher at 7:24 to make it 3-0.
The game was highly physical, with players from both teams earning time in the penalty box, but it did not stop Rider from flashing its offense, outshooting West Chester 18-9 after two periods.
Rider wrapped up its opening game victory after sophomore forward John Martino scored with 6:04 left, thanks to an assist by Chris Daley, to seal the 4-1 win.
Martino said that prior to scoring, he and Daley discussed how much they needed an insurance goal to put West Chester away for good.
“Daley came up to me and said, ‘We need one, let’s stay aggressive here and keep the shift offensive,’” Martino said. “As the play developed, he hit me with a great pass and then served as a distraction to the defender taking him wide. I cut across the crease and put it in backhand.”
Freshman goaltender C.J. Lineman picked up the win in his collegiate hockey debut.
The following day, the Broncs opened at Louck’s Ice Center for the first time this season as they took on perennial club program William Paterson, winners of the SECHL championship four of the last six seasons.
The game started off on an impressive note for Rider, scoring two goals in the first period for a quick 2-0 lead. Senior forward Larry Walker scored the first goal after a William Paterson penalty.
The second goal was scored by freshman defenseman Sean Hart, who also assisted on the first goal.
After a William Paterson goal in the second period to cut the lead in half, Rider responded again when Johnson scored on his second goal in as many games to improve the lead to 3-1.
Unfortunately, that was the extent of Rider’s advantage. In what was remaining in the second and third periods, William Paterson erupted for six unanswered goals to cap off a 7-3 win.
The tying goal for William Paterson came late in the second period on a beautiful set-up at the doorstep in which Lineman had no chance.
The momentum would never swing back. William Paterson’s offense exploded in the final period with four of its six unanswered goals.
Ansbacher feels that his team was able to make a statement regardless of the game’s final score.
“There was a lot of talk coming into the game about how good [William Paterson] was,” he said. “We kind of wanted to show that we deserved some respect as well. The game got away from us a little bit at the end, but I think we showed that we can compete with anyone. We have a good team with a lot of depth that just needs to gel a little bit more.”
Johnson felt that the goals against his team in the second period essentially deflated his team’s morale.
“I think we played well for a long time against one of the top teams in the country,” Johnson said. “But sadly, after we went down by a goal, our team gets down on themselves when we shouldn’t be. And after that, we just did not play the same as how we were for the first two periods.”
Johnson believes that the team has the potential to do well this year, but it is just a matter of coming together and building chemistry.
“I think we all just need to want it,” Johnson said. “We have a good group of guys that are going to do well together. We just have to take one game at a time, day by day, and we’re going to do just fine.”
Rider will begin a two-game road trip in Maryland against the University of Maryland on Oct. 2 and Maryland, Baltimore County on Oct. 3.
“We’re playing two strong teams this weekend,” Levin said. “It’ll be a great test for our team and see if we’re able to bounce back from the game on Sunday. It will also be a great opportunity for the team to continue bonding since it’ll be the first road trip of the season. These trips help the team come together and build the ‘family’ and ‘brotherhood’ concept we strive to achieve.”
Additional reporting by Brandon Scalea