By Jake Tiger and Hannah Newman
With cranberry hard hats and carved lumber in tow, Rider club ice hockey continued to build toward the .500 mark, nearly chopping down the fearsome Penn State Nittany Lions 3-2 on Nov. 11 before bulldozing the Delaware Blue Hens 3-1 on Nov. 12.
The 1-1 weekend brings the Broncs to 6-7 on the season, as they gradually recover from a 3-6 start.
‘We need more bus drivers’
Following a pair of wins, Rider was faced with a formidable foe in the 7-1 Nittany Lions.
Despite starting sophomore goalie Trevor Giwerowski, senior forward DJ Sucher and junior defenseman Nick Pedulla all returning from injury, the Broncs succumbed to Penn State, allowing two goals in the third period to suffer an avoidable 3-2 defeat.
“I’m pretty disappointed,” said Head Coach Sean Levin. “There’s no more moral victories for us. … We let this get away from us. We really did. I thought this game was ours.”
A pattern emerged in the loss, as the Lions scored their first and second goals within 30 seconds of the start of a period, the latter going in just 13 seconds into the third period.
“[The early goals are] the result of us being lazy … and that’s very unfortunate,” said Levin. “I think it’s a level of focus, and it’s a mental aspect. … We have, sometimes, too many passengers on the scene. We need more bus drivers.”
Aside from giving up a goal in the opening seconds, the Broncs were consistently on their heels for almost the entire first period, Penn State dominating the puck and the shot column.
However, the Broncs appeared to crack the Lions’ code during the first period intermission. The Rider offense came to life in the second, sending 10 shots at the Penn State goal after only mustering four in the first frame.
Sophomore forward Cole Schneider fired in two goals within a six minute span, bringing his season total to a team-high six and giving the Broncs a 2-1 lead.
“We started off really shaky in the first few minutes of the game, and I think just building up our offensive forecheck and putting in some more zone time really helped us … draw a few goals towards the middle,” said Schneider.
Rider’s defensive woes resurfaced at the start of the third period, and Penn State tied the game at 2-2.
Fifteen minutes later, a stray pass by senior defenseman Brendan Convery was stolen by the Lions, and a shot passed by Giwerowski to put the Broncs down 3-2 with four minutes remaining.
Rider tried and failed to recoup their losses, but the Lions’ blue line refused to break, and Rider’s defensive collapse would result in a bitter defeat.
“We really preach that we win as a team and lose a team, and unfortunately tonight, we’re on the wrong side,” said Levin. “We’ve got to start finding some victories.”
‘Back on the ice with the boys’
Coming out of their game against Penn State unsatisfied, Rider refused remain lifeless. The Broncs traveled to Delaware on Nov. 12 to redeem themselves against the Blue Hens.
The team secured a 3-1 win, courtesy of Sucher who led the team in goals with his third and fourth scores of the season.
“It felt great getting those two goals and being able to help the team get our sixth win of the campaign. After being out the last few games, I was just anxious to get back on the ice with the boys,” said Sucher.
Sucher secured the first goal of the game, giving Rider the lead through the first period.
Their dominance was further strengthened after junior forward Anthony Zito scored the second goal with a single shot attempt as the second frame was nearing an end.
“What we saw Saturday was a little sense of urgency, not beating Penn State was disappointing and the team knew that this was a really important game for us to come out strong and play from the get-go,” said Levin.
As the second period was inches away from leaving the Broncs with a 2-0 lead, the Blue Hens cut the Broncs lead in half, scoring their first goal with nearly two minutes left. This new score forced the Broncs to restrategize, knowing their chances of winning could fluctuate within seconds.
The taunting thoughts of their last game weighed heavy on their shoulders and strengthened their drive going into the third period.
“I saw the strongest connections in this game in the third period,” said Giwerowski. “The team came together and bought in blocking shots, getting pucks out and really simplified our game in the third.”
With four minutes left in the third period, Sucher brought back his determination, finalizing the game’s score with a 3-1 win for the Broncs and a steady comeback from their game the day prior.
“Personally, I just want to improve my play each game and continue to produce for the team. We are currently ranked 23rd in our region, which is something we are obviously not satisfied with,” said Sucher.
The Broncs face the Blue Hens again on Nov. 18 at 8 p.m., this time on their home ice for the team’s annual Greek Night. The rematch will be streamed on Twitch.