By Brandon Scalea
After a 5-2 loss in Happy Valley, the club hockey team (4-2) missed an opportunity to take vengeance on Penn State, losing 7-1 at Louck’s Ice Arena in Lawrenceville. The following evening, however, the Broncs bounced back with a 10-2 victory over St. Joseph’s.
Head Coach Sean Levin stressed that strong defensive play was the key for Rider to hold its own against Penn State. Senior goaltender Nate Kholodenko and his defense did everything they could against the Nittany Lions, but Penn State dominated possession of the puck and took advantage of quality scoring chances. Only a minute into the game, the Nittany Lions scored on a deflection. They would follow up with another goal just five minutes later on the game’s first power play. By the end of the first period, it was 3-0 in favor of Penn State.
In the second period, the Nittany Lions picked up right where they left off, beating Kholodenko on a sniper shot to make it 4-0 just 2:56 in. Thirty seconds later, it was 5-0.
Rider’s only goal would come shortly after, thanks to senior forward Pat Grilli, who was assisted by senior forward Chris Daley. That goal was Grilli’s sixth goal in three games.
After the Broncs were able to get on the board, it was all Penn State for the rest of the night. They would add two unanswered goals to sweep the season series with Rider.
Levin made it clear to his team that its performance was unacceptable.
“After the first loss to [Penn State], we had a strict game plan we wanted to follow and we didn’t execute,” Levin said. “I made it clear we needed to turn the page on this one and move on.”
On Oct. 11, the Broncs got back on track with the win over St. Joseph’s of Philadelphia. After an early power play for the Broncs, it was St. Joseph’s who would score the first goal.
Shortly after, Daley and Grilli hooked up for another goal to tie the game at one.
At the 13:50 mark of the second period, the Broncs took their first lead off a goal scored by Grilli. His line mates, Daley and junior forward Andrew Heinz were credited with the assists. The lead extended to 3-1 after a goal by junior forward Steve Junod, assisted by freshmen forwards John Martino and Mike Katz. Moments later, during a delayed penalty call, Heinz buried his first goal of the night with assists from another pair of freshman forwards, Katz and Chris Johnson.
Rider took a 5-1 lead thanks to the third assist of the game for Katz, though St. Joseph’s would bounce back with a goal past Kholodenko to cut the lead to 5-2 after two periods.
The third period was an offensive explosion for Rider. Levin was very proud of the team’s season-high five goals during the last 20 minutes.
“We definitely started to click late in that game,” he said. “It was only 1-1 going into the second period but we didn’t get down on ourselves. The way we responded from the night before speaks a lot about our character.”
The Broncs would go up 6-2 after the second goal of the night for senior forward Peter Malamud. The Broncs added another to make it 7-2. Grilli scored his second of the game and eighth in four games. Freshman forward Eric Bozzi scored his first career goal to make it 8-2, with another assist from Martino.
Martino, who finished with four assists, is confident in his team’s depth moving forward.
“We have a lot of well-balanced lines we can depend on at any time,” he said. “Depth is what makes a good team elite.”
Johnson and sophomore forward Max Daley got in on the action with a goal apiece, and the Broncs left with a 10-2 victory on home ice. Fourteen different players were credited with points in the win.
The Broncs will look to carry this offense to Bethlehem, Pa., for a showdown with Lehigh on Oct. 17.