Hoping for home-ice advantage

After a 9-3-1 2014 home record, the ice hockey club plays five of its first seven games at its home rink.

Coach Roman Bussetti (second from right) addresses the ice hockey team during a recent practice. | Brianna Spause TTN
Coach Roman Bussetti (second from right) addresses the ice hockey team during a recent practice. | Brianna Spause TTN

Early last season, team leaders Jason Lombardi, Patrick Hanrahan and Greg Malinowski met after a Monday-night practice.

The players expressed dissatisfaction with the prior season’s home record. The Owls were 6-7-1 at the Flyers Skate Zone in 2013, with opponents scoring 3.7 goals per game.

The team vowed to make a change.

Last season, the Owls had a 9-3-1 home record, scoring 5.7 goals per game and allowing three goals per game.

“We came together and said, ‘We are not letting any team come in here and just have a cake walk,'” said Lombardi, a senior defenseman. “‘If they are going to beat us they are going to have to earn it.’ We stuck to it and we won a lot of tough games in here. We wanted to make it an environment where teams couldn’t come in and feel comfortable at any point.”

Temple (2-3) hopes home-ice advantage translates this season with five of its next seven games at its home rink. The Owls will play five Eastern Collegiate Hockey Association games during that time period.

“It could decide the year early,” Lombardi said. “It’s a big stretch and we all have to get ready for it. It starts at practice, it starts how you treat your body during the week and the season could be decided right there, so you can’t take a game off.”

The Owls defeated ECHA opponents Villanova and Penn State Berks to start the 2014-15 season, but they struggled against Drexel, Lehigh University, the Naval Academy and a second meeting against Berks, as they went 2-4-1 against their new conference opponents.

“[Our opponents] caught us off guard,” junior defenseman John Anthony said. “We should have never lost to them. I feel the same way against Drexel [Sept. 25]. We couldn’t get everyone on the same page. It’s tough to do. If we show up for the whole 60 minutes and everybody works then we’re good. I don’t think there is anybody we can’t beat. I definitely think that’s the mindset that everybody has.”

Different players point to ill-timed penalties or the team not playing hard for full games as reasons for last season’s problems. Anthony said other issues came from behind the bench.

“[There were] a lot of poor coaching decisions during game situations,” Anthony said. “I feel like that was our downfall.”

The Owls do not face another string of ECHA opponents until Nov. 21 when they take on Towson University for the first time this season. The team realizes the importance of these early season contests.

“Mentally we have to be there,” senior defenseman Hanrahan said.  “Physically we have to be there. Whether that’s eating well or getting your school work done, so you’re ready to play come game time.

“Also your practice has to be high intensity,” Hanrahan added. “These are fast teams these are good teams and these are league opponents, so they are very important. These games matter for postseason rankings and big time for postseason play.”

Stephen Godwin can be reached stephen.godwin@temple.edu or on Twitter @StephenGodwinJr.

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