By David Pavlak
The Rider Broncs took to the ice this past weekend at home, attempting to continue their perfect season when they faced off against Penn State and Monmouth. Rider’s luck fell a bit short though, dropping the first game to Penn State, 4-2, on Friday. However, the Broncs followed it up with an impressive win the next night against Monmouth, 5-0.
Last year, the Broncs tied Penn State in the regular season before defeating their MACHA foe in the playoffs during their extraordinary championship run. The team was aware of the opposition’s caliber, and knew coming into this game that it was to not be taken lightly.
“The game against Penn State was by far our most difficult game of the season,” said junior Connor Dragone. “They are a hard-hitting and fast team, but I thought we were able to respond well as a team. Everybody was skating hard and creating chances with our speed through the neutral zone, which caused them to take some penalties as well as help us draw a penalty shot. It seemed like every line was skating hard and creating chances, but we just could not put the puck in the net.”
After a hard-fought first period, the score was locked at zero. Midway through the second period, the Nittany Lions ended the tie by scoring a powerplay goal.
After the break, Penn State came out hard again, scoring two more goals before Rider began its comeback.
With less than two minutes, both senior Mike Weaver and Dragone scored goals, cutting the lead to 3-2. That is as far as the comeback would go, though, as Penn State deposited the puck in the empty net that senior Joe Nalbone usually occupies.
“Although we lost, I thought it was a good game for us to see what the rest of the season will be like when we play the top teams in the MACHA,” said Dragone.
Facing Monmouth would produce a whole different outcome for the Broncs.
Sophomore Frank Garvey scored two goals, while freshmen Dylan Duffy and Tyler Deitrick each lit the lamp, concluding with Dragone scoring one himself. Garvey, the number one offensive weapon in Rider’s attack, leads the Broncs with 17 points and eight goals. Duffy now has five points and three goals for his rookie campaign.
Monmouth was never able to put the puck past Nalbone, while Rider peppered the opposing goalie with 59 shots.
“My defense has been forcing shooters to the outside and blocking shots, which really helps me out,” Nalbone said after the game. “If we continue to work hard on the ice and do the little things right, I think we’ll continue to have success.”
Dragone believes Nalbone is crucial to Rider’s success despite his quiet mentality.
“Joe Nalbone has really showed that he wants to have a big year this year,” Dragone said. “It seems like he is always making the big save or making a smart play to ensure our team stays on top and he is really one of the leaders on our team even though he is a pretty quiet kid.”
Nalbone has been a key piece to Rider’s 5-1 record. The senior has recorded 124 saves in 303 minutes of action.
The Broncs travel to Seton Hall Saturday; the puck drops at 9 p.m.