Sports

Playoffs hinge on strong finish for ice hockey club

The squad needs to impress in its final stretch to earn a regional playoff spot.

The Owls are vying to make the American Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs by perfecting an inconsistency – finishing.

The ice hockey club has gone 3-3-1 in games in which it has led or been tied with an opponent by the start of the third period.

“I know in the past there were a few games we couldn’t finish out,” defenseman Patrick Hanrahan said. “It’s just a matter of playing a full 60 minutes every game. A lot of the games we’ll show up, play 50 minutes and that won’t be enough. For at least the remainder of the season, we definitely have a chance to control our own destiny.”

The club has missed the American Collegiate Hockey Association Regional Tournament in each of the past three seasons. Through 24 games, the Owls sit at 13-9-2, one game improved from a 12-9-3 record coming off Winter Break a year ago.

“I have been there as a player,” said coach Ryan Frain, who played five seasons with the Owls from 2006-11. “Obviously, the last three years we have been on the outside looking in [regarding] making the playoff push and not making regionals in the last couple weeks of the season. It’s kind of on us to go out there and play our game for a full 60 minutes moving forward.”

The three remaining games are against Georgetown, the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and a rematch with the University of Delaware.

“We just to have to go out and treat this like another game,” Frain said. “When I was a player and I am sure [these players] do the same thing, you know it’s not just another game and they know the importance of it.”

The players seem to realize the seriousness of their situation, despite Georgetown and UMBC having seven wins apiece for the season.

“We’re definitely not [going to] be able to take anybody lightly,” Hanrahan said. “Anything can happen in any game we’ve seen that. I’ve seen that personally over the course of the last three years. Georgetown has some really skilled players, along with UMBC as well. I think their records are struggling this year, but we won’t take them lightly.”

The Blue Hens held the No. 8 ranking in the Southeast region as of Dec. 1, and will be looking for a repeat performance of their earlier 6-2 defeat of the Owls. UMBC is sitting just outside the Top 10 at No. 12, but has proven to be a tough opponent.

“Honestly we will approach them all the same way game plan wise,” Frain said. “We have a few tweaks in regards to line matching in certain games against the other team’s top line. Each of these four games are going to be a war coming down to regionals.”

The third set of ACHA Division 2 rankings are yet to be revealed, but the release of a new set of rankings could have a dramatic effect on Temple moving forward.

The rankings were set to come out on Dec. 28, but a delay has caused an anxiety within Temple’s players.

“We’re still waiting on it,” Hanrahan said. “I guess we’re at the point where it could come out any day now. I feel like we could fall. Hopefully we are still in the Top 10, but it would be good to still be in that nine- or 10-seed.”

The next set of results will determine if the Owls have to go undefeated to make the regionals or if they can allow one slip up along the way.

“I think there is always a chance if we did [lose a game], but I think there wouldn’t be any question in the ranking committee’s mind if we went undefeated,” Hanrahan said.

Frain has more optimism leading up to the final standings.

“I think there is a good chance that we slip into the Top 10 and that’s all that really matters,” Frain said. “As long as we are in the Top 10 at the end of the day and we have the ranking period on the board, anything can happen at that point.”

Stephen Godwin Jr. can be reached at stephen.godwin@temple.edu and on Twitter @StephenGodwinJr

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