By Jake Tiger
With the winds of a recent 3-1 win in its sails, Rider entered its home rematch with the Blue Hens on Nov. 18 with an air of confidence, expecting to soar to another crucial victory over a loathed division foe.
However, Delaware rebounded from the defeat and delivered a devastating counterpunch straight to the chin of Rider, completely outplaying the Broncs in what was a gruesome, 4-1 retaliation.
“I feel like I’m a broken record a little bit in terms of some of the comments after these types of games,” said Head Coach Sean Levin. “I think it’s evident that there is a level of [competition] that’s not there.”
Despite the long-awaited return of junior forward CJ Perkins from injury, the Broncs were no match for a Delaware squad that played with relentless determination.
A hat trick by Delaware forward Austin Vecchio powered the cold-blooded Blue Hen attack, and a stingy performance from Delaware goalie Joey Hooper slowly snuffed out Rider’s competitive fire.
While schematic adjustments were likely factors in the dramatic shift, more than anything, it was clear that the Blue Hens simply wanted it more than the Broncs in the rematch.
“If you’re not motivated and competitive at this level, then we have some problems here,” said Levin. “I rely on our leadership, and the players holding themselves accountable. I said this before to the guys after [the game]; it’s from [Head Coach] Jon Cooper from the Tampa Bay Lightning: bad teams, no one leads, good teams, coaches lead, and great teams, players lead.”
The Broncs never led in the contest, falling behind 14 minutes into the first period when Vecchio and the Blue Hens notched their first goal of the evening.
Just minutes into the second, Vecchio scored again, and the Broncs were in a 2-0 hole. The Broncs have a habit this season of deflating after being dealt an early deficit, and this was no exception.
“Today, I think they were hungry after losing last weekend to us; by 10 last year on this ice,” said sophomore goalie Trevor Giwerowski. “I think it was a big game for them. We just weren’t really ready for it at the moment, and we started playing from our heels.”
The second period saw two disqualifications, with pivotal junior defenseman Christian Wawrzynski and a Blue Hen both being banished to early showers after spearing penalties.
With a 2-0 lead, the ejections were a major win for Delaware.
“In these types of games that are emotional, we definitely let our emotions get the best of us,” said Levin.
Four minutes into the third period, Delaware scored two goals in 20 seconds to hammer the final nails in Rider’s coffin.
A late goal by sophomore forward Cole Schneider made the score 4-1 and prevented the shutout, but for Rider, a loss to Delaware stings no matter the fashion.
“It doesn’t sit right with me or anyone on the team,” said Giwerowski. “It sucks.”
Now at 6-8, the Broncs will regroup over a two-week break, returning to action on Dec. 2 with a home game against Stevenson University. The game will be streamed on Twitch.