By Brandon Scalea
The club hockey team swept its two-game homestand last weekend, defeating TCNJ on Oct. 24 and Maryland on Oct. 25.
The Broncs (7-3) hosted crosstown rival TCNJ at the Louck’s Ice Arena in a battle for local bragging rights. Senior goaltender Nate Kholodenko made 22 saves en route to a 2-0 shutout. The following night, Maryland made the trip to Lawrenceville and was not welcomed warmly. A 3-goal performance by freshman forward Chris Johnson gave the Broncs a 6-3 win over the Terrapins.
Louck’s, in Lawrenceville, “is home” to both Rider and TCNJ, and fans from both schools packed the rink for the contest. Both teams had an early power play but were not able to convert. Senior forward Pete Malamud beat the Lions goaltender late in the first, but the goal was waved off, leaving the first period scoreless.
In the second period, the Broncs displayed their lack of discipline with four penalties. Because of a great outing by Kholodenko, Rider killed off every man advantage TCNJ had.
Head Coach Sean Levin believes the Broncs need to cut back on the penalties to continue their success.
“We definitely have to play with a nasty side, but we can’t take it to a level where it’s going to harm our team,” said Levin. “We’ve let some teams stick around in games because of penalties. Thankfully, Nate and the penalty-killing unit didn’t allow it to come back and bite us.”
At the end of the second period, the score still remained 0-0, a first for Rider this year.
An early penalty against the Broncs set up a penalty kill in the third. Despite being a man down, the Broncs sustained pressure and kept possession. After a turnover, Johnson was able to slip one past the TCNJ goalie for a short-handed goal and a 1-0 lead.
Soon after, senior forward Chris Daley beat the TCNJ goalie again. Senior forward Pat Grilli, who has a point in every game this season, was credited with the assist to make it a 2-0 game.
“Once we got the first goal we just kept going and wearing TCNJ down,” Daley said. “On my goal the pass from Grilli was perfect, as usual, so I just had to tap it in.”
Rider took a couple more late penalties but the Lions were not able to capitalize. The horn sounded and the Broncs celebrated the 2-0 win.
The team looked to keep the momentum the following night hosting Maryland. The Terrapins struck early, beating Kholodenko for a 1-0 lead.
The Broncs answered right back. A hooking penalty gave them the power play and Johnson scored to tie it at one. Just like the night before, several Rider penalties threatened to cost them, but Kholodenko and the penalty-killing unit kept points off the board. After a pair of coincidental penalties, Johnson scored his third goal in two games and Rider took a 2-1 lead to the locker room.
Maryland was able to tie the game at two early in the second, but sent two men to the penalty box soon after. Following another set of coincidental minor penalties, freshman forward John Martino fed sophomore Larry Walker, who put it home for a 3-2 lead.
At the 16:57 mark of the second, junior forward Andrew Heinz joined the action for the two-goal lead. Moments later, Rider struck again to make it 5-2, thanks to a goal by senior forward Luke Liddell.
The Terrapins pulled within two goals in the opening minute of the third period, but Kholodenko stood tall for the remainder of the game. With just under two minutes left in regulation, Maryland pulled its goalie for the extra skater. Johnson, eyeing the hat trick, found the empty net for his third goal, capping a 6-3 win.
“Getting a hat trick is probably the greatest feeling,” Johnson said. “I think with all the freshmen playing really well it gives high hopes for the future years.”
The Broncs will attempt to continue their winning ways in Glassboro, N.J., next week as they take on one of their biggest rivals, Rowan.
“We know this team,” Levin said. “This team is always a playoff contender and we have to go down there with a bit of a chip on our shoulder. We are the underdogs, for sure.”