By Derek Jordan
After dominating TCNJ in an 8-0 victory on Jan. 26, the club ice hockey team squared off against Virginia Tech on Jan. 30.
But Rider had to do it without a prominent member of the team. Assistant Coach Joe Roche filled in for the absence of Head Coach Sean Levin, who could not make the game for personal reasons.
Coming off the win against TCNJ, Rider had a bit of a slow start. Virginia Tech controlled the flow of the game for the first five minutes, utilizing its speed to hop on the Broncs’ defense very early. Goaltender C.J. Lineman stood tall and bailed it out a number of times. As the first period went on, Rider began to wake up and started pushing back. The Broncs got on the forecheck and began to work in the offensive zone. With their hard work in the corners and beating Virginia Tech to 50-50 pucks, it finally paid off for the Broncs.
At 9:58 in the first period, sophomore defenseman J.J. Santagata put the Broncs up 1-0 with assists from forwards Chris Johnson and Andrew Heinz. In a bit of a broken play, Heinz had possession of the puck in the corner and just threw the puck on net. The puck kicked out to find Santagata at the point and he ripped it past the goaltender.
“I saw Heinz in the corner throw the puck in the middle,” Santagata said. “The puck just popped out in the middle of the ice, so I picked it up and saw the top corner open and I made a nice shot past the goalie.”
After Virginia Tech took a penalty, Rider put up an eventful power play, getting good, quality scoring chances. But at 15:43 in the first period, Virginia Tech scored a short-handed goal. The Broncs gave up a quick turnover at the blue line, which led to a 2-on-1 break for Virginia Tech, and it cashed in to tie the game 1-1.
Rider ended the period up 2-1 on a late goal from freshman defenseman Sean Hart.
The second period featured both teams trading goals back-and-forth. Virginia Tech had two quick tallies, both off of its strong forecheck. The Broncs defense saw heavy pressure and Virginia Tech made them pay twice, putting the score at 3-2. At 17:10 of the second period, Rider rallied back with a goal from senior forward Chris Daley.
As the third period started, the game took a big turnaround. At 9:10 into the period, senior forward Matt Fox was battling in the corner and the referee raised his arm for a penalty. Rider thought the penalty was against Virginia Tech, so they pulled its goalie. Unfortunately, the penalty was on Rider.
Eventually, Rider lost possession of the puck and Virginia Tech picked it up and shot it in from the redline into a wide-open net, putting them up 4-3.
Rider could not muster up any offense late in the third and eventually lost the game 5-3 on an empty net Hokie goal.
Roche liked his forwards’ play despite the loss.
“As a group, our forwards battled hard tonight,” he said. “I thought our play along the boards in the offensive zone, back-checking, and defensive zone support on the penalty kill were strong all night.”
Rider (8-12) will take on Delaware on Feb. 5 and Westchester on Feb. 6. Both games are home at Loucks Ice Arena.