By Steven Eggert
The Rider hockey team (28-6) has completed its record-setting regular season and looks to continue proving itself in the postseason.
This weekend, starting Saturday night, the Broncs will compete in the first round of the MACHA playoffs as the third seed.
For the third time this season, Rider will take on Rowan (9-13), but this time with playoff implications. Rider has beaten Rowan twice this season, winning 4-3 and 4-2.
If Rider beats Rowan, then the Broncs will face the winner of Penn State (25-2) vs. Temple or Delaware on Sunday. Temple and Delaware will have a playoff game tonight to decide who moves on Saturday to face Penn State.
Last year’s playoffs were considered a disappointment for Rider as the Broncs lost in the first round to Rowan.
Junior defenseman Brian Schauer feels this game will be a challenge because of the playoff atmosphere.
“Last year was a disappointing way to end the season,” Schauer said. “Beating a good team three times in a row is very hard to do. This year, we have a much deeper team in the locker room, and we have a complete offensive core and a lot of depth on defense.”
Rider recently beat St. Joseph’s (7-16) and Delaware (7-13). Junior defenseman Andrew Nebus feels confident in his team going into the playoffs, even though he realizes this weekend will be completely different than the regular season.
“We won two big games this weekend, which we needed to keep us going,” Nebus said. “We hit our stride when we needed to and we just need to keep focused and [keep] our heads in the game. The playoffs are totally different from the regular season but I’d say our team is very confident going into this weekend.”
Senior Andrew Michael believes the depth of Rider’s offense will make a difference this weekend.
“With all three lines scoring, it is great for the team,” Michael said. “When a team has only one line scoring, it is hard to win hockey games, but since we have the secondary scoring stepping up, it has really helped us the past few weekends.”
Rider’s Head Coach Ted Gerry agreed.
“You have to be able to roll three lines at this level,” he said. “All of our forwards are playing their best hockey right now. We’re very fortunate in that if we don’t get the matchup we want, we don’t have to worry. Not many teams can say that.”
Gerry thinks that Rider’s ability to play in all three areas of the ice at a high tempo is an advantage.
“In every game, we run three different systems,” Gerry said. “We run an offensive system, a neutral zone system and a defensive zone system. Not many teams can run three systems at the same time. With very little down time, this week’s practices are all high tempo. For us, it’s about getting as many reps as we can.”
Ultimately, Michael is proud of his team’s success, but is hungry for a championship.
“This year is our year,” he said. “As a senior, I want to win a championship, and everyone on the team has the same mindset. We have been working really hard in practice on the little things because when it comes to playoffs, every team you play is going to be good, so the little things count that much more.”
After a 28-6 season, Gerry is proud as well and feels his players can go far in the playoffs because of their talent.
“We have always had a tremendous amount of confidence in our team,” he said. “It takes a lot of talent, hard work and patience. Their will to win is like no other team I have ever coached. There is something special about this team. It has a great number of strengths.”