A game-winning goal in the final minute gave the Owls a win.
With less than 30 seconds left in regulation, senior forward Steve Danno fired a shot past Villanova’s goalie to give the Owls a 4-3 victory over the Wildcats Saturday.
“I knew there wasn’t much time left,” Danno said. “So I just went down the boards, tried to get a quick shot off and luckily, I put it where there was an opening.”
Scoring went back and forth throughout the game, as the Wildcats scored just two minutes into the third period to take the lead, 3-2. But the Owls would come right back with a goal from their leading scorer, senior forward Ryan Frain.
“We caught a break,” said Frain, who has 10 goals on the year. “Good puck movement around the top sent it over to me, and I took a shot – deflected off their guy and it found its way into the net.”
Freshman goaltender Chris Mullen would limit Villanova – 4-5 on the season – to one goal in the final period of play, while the Owls’ defense limited their opponent’s ability to get off shots and execute on penalty kills.
“We stepped up in the third period,” Danno said. “We hit them right when it needed to be done. [We] just got to stay out of the penalty box with our high hits.”
The Owls were down two players to penalties with five minutes remaining in the game, yet they managed to hold off the Wildcats and kept the game tied at three.
“That 5-on-3 with four or five minutes left in the game was huge,” junior defenseman Andrew Trainor said. “If we didn’t get out of that one, that was the game right there.”
Leading to that critical penalty kill, sophomore defenseman Dylan Peer was ejected from the game due to throwing his stick after committing a penalty.
“The game definitely got out of hand,” coach Jerry Roberts said of the game’s inconsistent calls from referees. “It was nice to see our guys for once actually keep their composure, be able to fight through it all and then come out with a ‘W.’”
Senior forward George Rutter scored the first goal of the game to give the Owls an early lead. After Villanova tied the match in the second period, senior forward Jim Mckenzie put Temple back up, 2-1, as he scored in front of the net as the puck bounced off the opposing goalie.
Even though Temple’s offense responded each time Villanova scored a goal, Roberts said the team didn’t compete at the level it’s capable of.
“We’re struggling offensively right now,” Roberts said. “We’re experimenting with a lot of line combinations, and we’re not getting as many chances as we would like to.”
“Right now, we’re banking on our defense to take care of business. Hopefully, we will find the offense shortly,” Roberts added.
Temple is 7-2-0-1 on the season and has won five of its last seven games, including a 2-1 record at the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division 2 Showcase from Oct. 15-17. The showcase, which took place in Youngstown, Ohio, consisted of 20 ACHA D2 teams.
In the first game, the Owls’ junior goaltender Will Neifeld posted a shutout win over Northern Michigan University, 6-0. In the second game, against Kentucky University, junior forward Chris Johnson and Rutter both scored goals for Temple, as Neifeld allowed one goal on 26 shots to give the team a 2-1 decision.
But the third game, against Ferris State University, produced a different outcome for the Owls, as they lost, 5-4, and just missed a perfect 3-0 appearance in the showcase against what Roberts called “good competition.”
“Overall we did well, but we definitely could have done better,” Trainor said. “That last game that we dropped versus Ferris State was definitely a game we would have won had we put our heads on straight for an entire 60 minutes.”
Last Friday, the Owls faced off against Rowan University and lost the match, 2-1. Frain scored early to give the Owls the lead in the first period, 1-0, but Temple could not hold on to win.
Consistency is something the Owls expect from Frain, who continues to score goals. His mentality: “Working hard every night at practice and coming in, doing the same thing in our games,” Frain said.
Twenty games remain on the Owls’ schedule. Roberts said he expects the team to be “very dangerous” if it finds a winning identity.
“Every season, every team has their own identity, and we’re still looking for ours,” Roberts said. “We have 15 new guys. There’s a lot of turnover. So really it’s a different team from last year, and what worked for us last year isn’t necessarily going to work for us this year.”
On Friday, the Owls travel to take on Monmouth University, where Frain will look to score his 100th career goal.
Connor Showalter can be reached at email@example.com.