Upon entering the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey Association stretch of its season, the ice hockey club team has found itself in a much different position than at the same point last year, while playing in the Delaware Valley Collegiate Hockey Conference.
The Owls, who captured the DVCHC title for the past three years, have made focus a priority this season. A few players said the team left their old conference in search of greater competition.
The Owls got what they were looking for, assistant captain Jerry Roberts said.
“Last year we were fighting for the first round bye, the No. 1 seed [in the DVCHC postseason],” Roberts said. “Now we’re just fighting for a playoff spot.”
Saturday’s game against MACHA rival Rider did not help the Owls’ chances at earning a playoff berth.
The Owls (8-9) dropped their third consecutive game, losing to Rider, 4-2, at the Skate Zone in Northeast Philadelphia. Coach Jamie Sabbatini credited the loss to a few bad decisions made late in the game.
“[The team] played well for 55 minutes. We just needed to play well for the whole 60,” Sabbatini said. “We came out and did everything right except for a couple of mistakes.”
The Broncs scored first, with a goal midway through the first period. Temple senior forward Jeff Pelus responded at the end of the first period with a short-handed goal for the Owls during a Rider power play.
A four-minute penalty was called against the Owls early in the second period, but Temple killed the penalty. With five minutes remaining in the period, Pelus posted his second goal of the night to give the Owls a 2-1 advantage.
The Owls dominated play in the first two periods, taking 26 shots to Riders’ 16. The Broncs could only manage four shots during the second period because of the Owls’ strong defense.
But turnovers in the Temple zone helped the Broncs to their second goal, with four minutes remaining in the third period. Seconds later, Pelus found himself with an opportunity to score on a breakaway, but his shot hit the crossbar.
With just a minute and a half left, Rider took the lead against a deteriorating Owls defense.
Roberts said he was disappointed with the loss, since the Owls beat Rider, 7-4, earlier in the season.
“We completely dominated Rider [before], but they just came off beating Princeton, the second-best team in the conference,” Roberts said. “They had momentum coming into tonight, but we still had full expectations of beating them. We knew it would be a close game.”
Sabbatini said his team knows what it will take to get to the playoffs.
“We can’t expect to make the playoffs just because we’re Temple,” he said. “We have to go out there and work hard and I think we’re all learning that right now.”
The Owls have just eight games remaining on the schedule, which means they have only eight more chances to prove they belong in the MACHA playoffs.
Their next chance is Saturday, when the Owls face league rival Lafayette.
Melissa DiPento can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.