By David Pavlak
Finally, Rider (22-5) was able to square off against the opponent that defeated them in the championship game a year ago: the UMBC Retrievers (20-8). The Broncs wanted to play with as much tenacity and grit that it would take in order to topple their opponent that snatched the glory out of their hands a year before. Unfortunately, however, there would be no redemption for the Broncs, as they lost to the Retrievers, 7-4, before coming back and defeating Alvernia University (13-8) the next night, 5-3. The win finished a record-setting season for the Broncs with their 22nd win, most ever in a season.
Rider would be on the offensive first in the game, with sophomore Frank Garvey and junior Connor Dragone putting the Broncs up on top 2-0 at the end of the first.
“At the end of the first period I told the guys that they were going to come out fast and try to get a quick goal to stop our momentum,” said senior captain D.J. Nork.
UMBC would come out for the second period flying, scoring four unanswered goals and taking the lead on a shell-shocked Rider team.
“It was only a matter of time until UMBC would wake up and start playing the way they are capable,” Nork said. “We knew that they could score goals, especially on the power play because they move the puck great. I wish we could have come out with a better start in the second and would have changed up the lines after the goals were scored.”
With the start of the third period and trailing 5-3, the Broncs were hoping for a strong 20 minutes to finally capitalize on their opponent’s mistakes and skate away with the victory. All the wind would fall from the sails of the Broncs though as the Retrievers would score a short-handed goal, and would add another one in the frame to put an end to the game, and walk away with the 7-4 victory.
With the difficult loss fresh in its mind, Rider would have to take to the ice again the next night and play one more game against Alvernia.
Possibly suffering a hangover from the previous night’s defeat, the Broncs let the Crusaders hang around in this game longer than they should have, which made for a tighter finish than the Broncs are used to. Freshman Dylan Duffy, senior Mike Weaver and Dragone scored through the first two periods, but the score remained tied at three. In the third period, Rider relied on strong goaltending and veteran leadership to secure the win. Junior Alex Schon and Garvey would seal the deal for the Broncs as they were able to polish off the Crusaders and end the regular season 22-5.
“As a team I think we have so much to be proud of,” said Dragone. “A 22-5 record is not an easy thing to achieve at all. Setting a Rider University record for most wins in a season was a great accomplishment that this team will be remembered for and should always be proud of. The coaches did a great job of getting us ready for every game and every player did their part to contribute. From training camp in August until today, this group has never stopped working hard and they have all done a phenomenal job.”
However, this was only the first part of the journey for the Broncs. Now they will prepare for the MACHA playoffs in hopes of coming home with the championship that has eluded them. In the first round, tonight Rider will face off against Rowan University (13-14-3), a team the Broncs defeated earlier this season twice, 7-4 and 7-6. All of the MACHA playoffs will be held at the Loucks Ice Center which is located on the Lawrenceville School’s campus. The puck drops at 8:15.