Sports

Defensive struggles force change

Two student-athletes have emerged as defensive leaders.

The Owls’ defense has struggled this year.

Temple has given up 76 goals in 19 games for an average of four goals a game, despite strong performances by senior goaltender Chris Mullen. However, junior defenseman Chris Carnivale and sophomore defenseman Jason Lombardi have stepped up recently and emerged as the team’s No. 1 defensive unit, solidifying the blue line.

“When the other team’s top line is out there, [Lombardi’s] usually the one out there as well as his ‘D’ partner [Carnivale],” coach Ryan Frain said

Frain said the two have been his best defensive line so far this season.

“It means a lot,” Lombardi said. “He puts a lot on us and he expects a lot, and it feels good that he trusts in us and that he puts us out to defend in a tough situation.”

As a defensive pair, Carnivale and Lombardi are similar players. They both play with high energy and physicality, but also have the ability to put points up on the board and contribute offensively.

Frain has implemented a high-energy, fast-paced style of play from his team this year. Having offensive defensemen such as Carnivale and Lombardi that can get the puck out of the zone quickly and start an attack is something Frain said he appreciates.

“Both of them like to rush the puck out,” Frain said. “I like to stress ‘no hesitation’ when we are in deep in our own defensive zone. As soon as they get the puck on their stick, they get their heads up and just start moving the team out of our zone. And a lot of the time they take it upon themselves to get to that red line and get that puck in deep and let the forwards do the work, which is what I want and what I expect.”

Frain said he stresses getting the puck back to his defensemen and firing shots in from the blue line for the team to crash the net and look for the rebounds.

“As soon as the forwards get the puck back to them at the point, they’ve done a really good job of not taking a lot of time when winding up for a slap shot, but just picking their heads up, taking a quick wrist shot on net,” Frain said. “Those are the more effective ones, and obviously it gives their defense less time to react.”

Through this style of play, Carnivale and Lombardi have helped out the offensive attack and put up some points for themselves. Carnivale has three goals and seven assists for 10 points this season, while Lombardi has five goals and six assists for 11 points.

“I think the other defensemen kind of take their cues from them,” Frain said. “From game to game, one of those guys steps up and helps us out when need be.”

As goalie, Mullen said he has benefited from defensive improvements.

“Without a doubt I think they’re our top ‘D’ men,” Mullen said. “I’m always confident in [Carnivale’s] ability to get the puck out of the zone when we need to. He’s one of our best and fastest skaters and doesn’t get knocked off the puck easily.”

“Lombardi has stepped up for sure,” Mullen added. “We knew he was going to have an impact the moment he made the team and he has. He’s stepped up contributing offensively and has bailed me out blocking numerous shots in the ‘D’ zone.”

Samuel Matthews can be reached at samuel.matthews@temple.edu or on Twitter @SJMatthews13.

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