By Thomas Albano
Before breaking for Thanksgiving, the club ice hockey team managed to get two victories on home ice, defeating TCNJ on Nov. 21 and the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) on Nov. 22.
The successful weekend started with a showdown against rival TCNJ, whom the Broncs (11-6) share home ice with at Loucks Ice Arena. Rider dominated the game, scoring in every period en route to a 6-1 win.
The Broncs managed to get onto the board fairly quickly into the first period when senior forward Chris Daley found the back of the net, giving the team a 1-0 lead. Rider depended on senior goaltender Nate Kholodenko and the penalty-killing unit to keep the lead in the opening period.
Daley said Kholodenko and the defense, including the penalty-killing unit, were key in the game.
“Our defense played very well, but I think the standout this weekend was the goaltending by Nate Kholodenko,” Daley said. “He showed everybody, once again, that he can stop just about everything.”
The second period started strong for the Broncs, as they dominated possession of the puck and the game. Nearly halfway through the second period, senior forward Pat Grilli secured a pass from senior forward Luke Liddell, and managed to go on a breakaway and score to extend the Rider lead to 2-0. Before the horn sounded, the Broncs scored again to go into the final period with a 3-0 lead.
Approximately halfway through the third period, the penalty box got busy. First, when the action got in front of the Broncs’ net, a scuffle broke out between several Rider and TCNJ players. This resulted in a TCNJ player and sophomore forward Larry Walker being sent to the box and 4-on-4 hockey. Not long after, junior defenseman Connor Fox was also penalized after hitting an opposing player from behind. The 4-on-3 play expired, but it was too late as the Lions scored just as the penalty ended and made it a 3-1 game with 8:54 left to play.
Rider was fired up after the brawl, as the team found the back of the net three times, taking a 6-1 victory.
Head Coach Sean Levin said he was unsure if the fight itself caused the spark, but was proud of his players for stepping up.
“We really want to make sure that they know that if anyone comes near our goaltender during the play, we’re going to stand up for each other and protect each other,” Levin said. “I don’t want us to get into the habit of fighting or trying to throw punches. I think we need to protect our goaltender, protect each other, but we can’t take ourselves out of the play and make it easy for other teams to go on the power play.”
The next day, the Broncs hosted UMBC for a mid-afternoon matchup. Junior forward Andrew Heinz had a strong hit on an opposing player early on in the game, foreshadowing a physical battle between the two teams.
Rider had numerous chances and close calls throughout the opening period, most notably when junior forward Steve Junod and senior forward Greg Kemp had a 2-on-1 towards the UMBC goal, but the shot was high. The first period ended scoreless.
Early on in the second, both the Broncs and the Retrievers took a penalty, which resulted in 4-on-4 hockey, but neither team was able to benefit. Rider got on the power play after another UMBC penalty, but with 30 seconds left in it, freshman defenseman JJ Santagata was sent to the box for tripping. The team had to battle shorthanded throughout the period, including some 5-on-3 hockey.
Kholodenko and the penalty kill unit were needed once again as the Retrievers showed no mercy in their attempt to score the first goal of the game. Kholodenko would have other plans, and continuously stopped any UMBC shot while the Broncs were shorthanded. Despite another Bronc powerplay, the team could not find the back of the net and the second period also ended scoreless.
Finally, in the middle of the third period, Grilli scored with an assist from senior defenseman Chris Bergert and made the game 1-0 in Rider’s favor.
With 3:43 left, the Broncs had another powerplay, but were once again unsuccessful, and the Retrievers pulled their goalie for an extra skater in the final minute, as UMBC haunted the Rider zone. The Broncs, however, got the puck back and senior forward Pete Malamud scored the empty-netter with a few seconds left to seal the 2-0 Rider win.
The Broncs will now travel to Haverford, Pa., to take on St. Joseph’s on Dec. 6 before hosting Liberty on Dec. 7. Levin said that after the Thanksgiving break, the team should be refocused and refreshed for the upcoming games.
“St. Joe’s is a team that’s really feisty,” Levin said. “They play well in their own rink, so we have to make sure we come in and we’re ready to go. We’ve had some success against them, but they’re a team we can’t look past. So we go from a game we can’t look past against St. Joe’s to a big game on Sunday against Liberty. We have a little bit of a revenge factor, losing by a goal down there [on Nov. 15], so we really need this win for us to springboard in the rankings to lead us into the first weekend of the next semester.”