By Steve Eggert
The Rider club hockey team (17-4) is shipping up to Boston as it prepares for the weekend, playing three games in three days. The Broncs will face Harvard (3-6), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T) (3-1), and Roger Williams (10-1).
Head Coach Teddy Gerry is excited for the weekend in Boston, but also realizes the team needs to be focused all week as it prepares for the challenge.
“These three games are very exciting for us,” Gerry said. “Harvard will be an extremely tough game for us. They usually have size and move the puck well. M.I.T. should be a very similar team. Last year Roger Williams ran a [neutral zone] trap, so we will be prepared for that.”
Controlling the middle of the ice will be crucial to the Broncs finding success away from home, Gerry said.
“Our neutral zone play has not been the greatest this year,” he said. “We believe that if we can control the neutral zone, it will prevent teams from creating odd man rushes, creating offensive rushes for us, and help us better control our breakouts. For this weekend we are focused more on strategic play rather than speed.”
The Broncs are coming off of a two-week hiatus from their last game of competitive action. Junior captain Frank Garvey realizes that every practice this week is important for the team’s performance this weekend.
“It’s got to start on Monday at the first practice,” Garvey said. “We are coming off a two-week break which could really hurt us if we do not physically and mentally prepare. As long as we come out strong and focused, I think we’ll be fine.”
This isn’t the first three-game weekend for the Broncs, who took on the tough task the first weekend in November. They walked away with three wins then, and sophomore Mike Rossi has confidence in his team’s ability to do it again.
“Winning three games a couple weeks ago definitely gives us confidence going into this weekend,” Rossi said. “Knowing we’ve done it once makes us believe that we can do it again. It also taught us that three-game weekends are very demanding of the players both mentally and physically. We need to come prepared and focused to all three games to have our best chance to win.”
Gerry agreed with Rossi.
“Winning those games absolutely gives us confidence,” he said. “Three games in three days is a lot of miles to log, especially for the defensemen. We pride ourselves in being the best-conditioned team. It’s one less thing we have to worry about and it gives us a mental boost in the third period.”
Gerry also feels that Rider’s bench play will be a factor this weekend.
“I am not sure if these three teams have the depth that we have, and hopefully we will be able to run four lines on a consistent basis,” Gerry said. “Sometimes we have to shorten our bench, but if we can run four lines, it’s a huge advantage for Rider. All of our guys are physically and mentally tough. They wouldn’t be playing hockey at this level if they weren’t.”