By Thomas Regan
The club ice hockey team donned its pink uniforms to support the fight against breast cancer in the annual “Pink in the Rink” night on Nov. 7. Rider hosted Temple on the fundraising night, before facing off against Monmouth on Nov. 8.
The Broncs lost to the Owls 6-3, but quickly bounced back and blew out the IceHawks 7-1.
The game against Temple started off poorly for Rider (8-5) as it allowed a goal only two minutes into the contest. That goal was quickly followed by a second after junior forward Andrew Heinz was sent to the penalty box for tripping, forcing the Broncs to play a man down.
Refusing to go down without a fight, Rider was able to capitalize on a power play presented by a hooking penalty against Temple, as freshman forward Michael Katz scored off an assist by senior forward Pat Grilli to cut the Owls’ lead to one. Moments later, the Broncs tied it up with a goal by junior defenseman Connor Fox off of senior forward Chris Daley’s blocked shot.
However, the deadlock didn’t hold for long, as another penalty led to another goal for Temple. The first period ended 3-2.
Early in the second period, sophomore forward Larry Walker evened the score off an assist by sophomore forward Max Daley.
Rider allowed another power play goal to go down 4-3, before falling behind further with an unassisted goal with only 24 seconds remaining in the second period.
The third period was similar to the first two, as the Broncs struggled to create opportunities and failed to capitalize when they had the chance. Rider pulled senior goalie Nate Kholodenko for an extra skater, and the Owls scored on the open net. That made Temple’s lead 6-3, and that ended up being the final score.
Head Coach Sean Levin understands that penalties have hurt his team’s chances of winning close games.
“Looking back at that game, one area that continues to be a problem is with our discipline,” Levin said. “Each week we stress going into the weekend how important it is to stay out of the [penalty] box and be disciplined. But, we continue to take ourselves out of the play by some penalties. From a coaching standpoint, I’m OK with some of our penalties. We’re working hard, but there are too many, and plenty of lazy penalties where we’re not thinking, and we’re just trying to make an extra hit that’s not beneficial overall for the team.”
Coming off the loss, Rider got a hot start against Monmouth, scoring two unanswered goals within four minutes of each other. The IceHawks did narrow the lead, scoring once just minutes later; however, the goal would prove to be Monmouth’s only offense of the afternoon.
The Broncs, on the other hand, were not finished. The offense continued to roll with a goal off the stick of Grilli, for his second score of the game, to end the first period with Rider ahead 3-1.
The start of the second did not prove much different for the Broncs when Fox pushed the team in front 4-1 off an assist from Max Daley. Without allowing Monmouth to answer, the Broncs scored 3 more goals, including a third for Grilli. The final score was 7-1, as the explosive Rider offense won in front of a stellar performance from senior goalie Mike Haggerty, who replaced Kholodenko, who was given the day off.
Levin credits Haggerty, who blocked 30 shots and allowed only 1 goal, for being an outstanding member of Rider’s club ice hockey team throughout his career.
“Mike Haggerty has done a lot for the program, both on the ice and off the ice,” he said. “He continues to be a key component in the growth of the program, both in the classroom and on the ice. Obviously this was a good opportunity to utilize everything that he’s done and give Nate a break. He came in and did the job.”
Katz believes the team stayed “in the zone” for the entire contest.
“We just stayed focused throughout the entire game and came up on top with the nice win to end the weekend,” Katz said.
Moving forward, the Broncs will take a trip to Virginia to face off against Virginia Tech on Nov. 14 and Liberty on Nov. 15.
Levin explained that his team must keep the pace of the game at a reasonable level, especially against Virginia Tech.
“Coming off of a long bus ride, I think the most important aspect from our game plan needs to be keeping it extremely simple,” Levin said. “Playing a good road game really comes down to slowing the pace down. They’re going to come out with a lot of energy and our goal, at least for the first 10 minutes, must be to slow them down. We will take an icing if need be, to slow the game down and get them out of their comfort zone.”