Despite scoring the inaugural goal of its highly anticipated fall game against conference foe The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) on Friday, Nov. 21, the Rider ice hockey team (10-7-1, 2-6) was unable to hold onto its lead and eventually lost the game 8-2.
The Broncs kept the pressure on their Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey Association (MACHA) rivals throughout the game, outshooting the Lions 45-32, but fell behind in the first period and were unable to hit paydirt after the second.
“In years past, we always beat TCNJ because we knew we were the better team and we just treated it like a regular game because there wasn’t much pressure,” said junior forward Tom D’Aurizio. “However, now that they are in our league and improving every year, the magnitude of the game rises and we lost the mindset that it was just another game.”
Senior forward Merlin Thompson snuck the first goal past TCNJ goalie Joe McCarty with 10:42 left in the first period, but TCNJ managed to tie it up just over a minute later.
The Lions followed up the tying goal with two more in the span of nine seconds. With 6:18 left, senior defender Alex Gorden netted a power-play goal, followed by sophomore forward Vincent LaRosa.
The second period started in the Broncs’ favor when junior forward George Helock shot a pass from sophomore defender Nicklas Ryskasen into the TCNJ goal, shrinking the Lions’ lead to one.
TCNJ finished the period with sophomore forward Elie Klein and junior forward Scot McClintic flipping pucks over senior goalie Bobby Kovarovic’s leg to widen the gap to 5-2.
The third period was all about the Lions. Klein completed a hat trick, scoring the next two goals — the second on a power-point play — and assisted LaRosa in a third, bringing the game to an end.
Despite the less-than-satisfactory conclusion, the Broncs are looking forward to the next game on their schedule, a home matchup at Louck’s tonight with a Seton Hall team they handily defeated in Oct., 8-1.
“We are the better team on paper, but in this league, anyone can win on any night, and if we take them lightly, it isn’t going to be a fun game for us,” D’Aurizio said. “But if we play like we did earlier in the year, we’ll be fine.”
Junior forward Nick Savaiano acknowledged the fact that with the loss to TCNJ, the Seton Hall game takes on a slightly different meaning.
“I would like to say that we will have a repeat result against Seton Hall, but right now we have our backs to the wall and we can’t take any game lightly,” he said. “Every game we play from here on out we have to come into that game with the right mindset.”
Savaiano is already set for the season-ending rematch with TCNJ on Feb. 13, 2009, eagerly awaiting an opportunity to even the score with the Lions.
“TCNJ is definitely a team I am looking forward to playing again,” he said. “Losing to your rivals in front of a big crowd is never fun, so we owe them some payback.”