By Brandon Scalea
The club hockey team took a road trip to Pennsylvania for meetings with Penn State and West Chester University (WCU). After a 2-0 start to the year, the Broncs fell short to the Nittany Lions on Oct. 3 by a score of 5-2, but got back on track with a seven-goal performance against WCU on Oct. 5.
The Broncs took on the Nittany Lions club team in Penn State’s Pegula Ice Arena in State College, Pa. The Broncs, who split the season series with Penn State last year, refused to be intimidated by their well-established opponent. Sophomore forward Larry Walker gave Rider a 1-0 lead with an early goal.
Moments later, the Nittany Lions tied the game at 1-1 at the 15:09 mark. Soon after, senior forward Pat Grilli would put the Broncs back on top. Penn State would tie it again, this time on a controversial goal that appeared to be kicked in. The momentum would never swing back.
Late in the opening period, Penn State took its first lead of the game with one second left on a power play. Midway through the second period, the lead was doubled on a sniper shot that beat Rider’s senior goalkeeper Nate Kholodenko. By the end of the second period, Penn State led 4-2, but Rider had the edge in shots, 17-13.
In the third, the Broncs looked to dig deep and come from behind. They were able to sustain some pressure, but it was the Nittany Lions who scored the only goal of the third period, closing out a 5-2 loss for the Broncs.
Head Coach Sean Levin said that despite the controversial goal, the loss was because of errors made by Rider.
“Penn State’s second goal looked as if they kicked it in,” Levin said. “It was a questionable call by the ref but that’s part of the game. We began to make mental mistakes, which led to many of Penn State’s scoring chances. Giving a strong team like Penn State these types of chances will result in goals.”
The Broncs were able to get back on track offensively against WCU, scoring a season-high seven goals. Only 28 seconds in, senior forward Chris Daley put the Broncs on the board. After a penalty, the Rider penalty killing unit was able to get one of their own, as Grilli scored with an assist from Daley. With 11 minutes to play in the first, WCU scored to cut the lead in half. The game completely opened up after that.
Freshman Mike Katz was able to score his second goal of the season and put the Broncs up 3-1 by the end of the first period. In the second, Grilli picked up the first hat trick of the season for Rider, scoring a short-handed goal and an even-strength goal.
Grilli credits Daley, his linemate, for his success.
“Daley and I have chemistry going back for a couple of years,” Grilli said. “Every time we have the puck we look for each other. It’s a lot of fun to play with him.”
Soon after, WCU would score three goals in a span of three minutes to pull within one goal of the Broncs. The second period came to an end and the scorer’s table received a much-needed break.
The final period belonged to Rider as they added two more insurance goals. Grilli picked up his fourth goal of the game with another assist from Daley. As the clock ticked down and WCU pulled its goalie, Katz netted his second goal of the game to make it 7-4.
Katz has had a mission this year of making his presence known.
“Coming into college I was afraid the speed of the game would be too much,” Katz said. “But I have a great support system from the upperclassmen which has allowed me to fit in perfectly.”
The Broncs will face off against Penn State yet again on Oct. 10 at the Louck’s Ice Arena in Lawrenceville, Rider’s home ice rink, before hosting St. Joseph’s the following day.
Levin has a game plan in mind to ensure Rider will not be defeated by Penn State again.
“A major area that we need to improve upon for Friday’s game is our breakout,” Levin said. “We had breakdowns in our own zone which led to Penn State goals or scoring chances. We feel if we’re able to minimize mistakes, especially in our own zone, then we should be able to limit Penn State’s scoring chances. Anytime you play a good team with a high-powered offense, you must play a strong defensive game.”