Temple nearly played Rhode Island to a scoreless stalemate in the first period, but the final nine seconds proved to be a turning point in Friday’s 5-1 loss at the Flyers Skate Zone.
The Owls matched the Rams’ intensity with six shots apiece, but Temple lost a critical cog to its penalty kill when senior defenseman Patrick Hanrahan was sent to the penalty box near the end of the period.
The Owls killed off two previous power plays, but Rhode Island scored six seconds into this chance, and Temple never recovered.
“We really didn’t play and stick to our game plan,” coach Roman Bussetti said. “We kind of freelanced today. We got caught up trying to beat up the other team and taking runs sometimes, and it cost us some goals.”
Temple had nine penalties for 26 penalty minutes with the Rams scoring on two of the opportunities. Senior defenseman Jason Lombardi was the main guilty party with three penalties and a game ejection in the last couple minutes.
The Rams finished the game with eight penalties for 16 minutes and one goal surrendered.
“It was tough because I felt like we were on the penalty kill a lot, especially in the second period,” said sophomore Ryan Dumbach, who had an assist. “Overall I thought we had pretty decent defensive zone coverage today. A couple lapses here and there definitely killed us.”
The top line of senior forwards Stephen Kennedy, Dan Nucero and sophomore forward Joey Powell have been a force for Temple as of late, but the group failed to tally a point together.
“They just pressured us,” Nucero said. “We didn’t have any space on the ice anywhere to work with the puck. As soon as you got the puck there was a guy on you right away. It’s tough to make plays when they are pressuring you that hard.”
After battling through the first period, the Owls seemed primed to even the score after they were awarded a penalty early through the second period. Sloppy passing at center ice resulted in the Rams gaining control of the puck and zone and Rhode Island was able to extend its lead with a short-handed goal.
The Rams continued their momentum and outshot Temple 11-2 in the span. The pressure forced a pair of penalties on the Owls and gave Rhode Island a five-on-three advantage for 1:13. The man advantaged lingered long enough for the Rams to capitalize and open up its biggest lead of the game at 3-0 seven minutes into the period.
Temple then rattled off five-straight shots in an apparent turnaround, but Rhode Island gave a pushback and scored another goal with 9:39.
The Owls finally got on the board in the last three minutes of the second period when Nucero scored a power play goal on a pass from sophomore forward Devon
Nucero’s goal came as the result of a new technique Bussetti is using on his team’s power play. The Owls are focusing their attention on longer shots from near the blue line instead of crashing the net like they did in past games.
“We’re actually running a new system on the power play,” Nucero said. “He set me up in the slot, they left me wide open, just like in practice looking for that one timer, and I took it, and I fanned on it, but the puck was right there, so I took another whack at it, and I just found the open net.”
Temple junior goalie Hayden Richards rebounded after giving up the fourth goal by stopping the next 15 shots. His steak was broken when he gave up a quick strike off of a faceoff with 12:37.
The Owls could not respond and will have to wait until tomorrow to end a three-game losing streak.
Saturday’s game will also mark the last game for Kennedy after two and a half years. Kennedy had 34 goals in 2013-14, 36 goals in 2014-15 and has 20 goals this season.
Before the game sophomore forward Alex Kempinski wore a sling. Kempinski suffered an upper body injury in the team’s road trip to John Carroll University last weekend and is expected to miss the next six weeks.
Stephen Godwin Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @StephenGodwinJr