Prior to his team’s two-game bout with the University of Maryland-Baltimore County this weekend, coach Jerry Roberts said the No. 1 key to beating UMBC would be goaltending.
Junior goalie Chris Mullen showed all in attendance in the latter part of the two-game series just why Sunday, as Mullen stopped 31 of 35 shots en route to a convincing 6-4 Temple defeat of their hated rivals.
After a penalty-laden 6-1 UMBC victory over Temple Saturday, penalties again swayed this match-up, this time having an effect early with each team notching two power play goals apiece in the first period. Freshman forwards Dave Brewer, Cody Vassa and Greg Malinowski each had tallies in the period, with Malinowski’s being the game’s first even strength goal.
Temple (14-10) then took control of the second early, getting the majority of the shots and netting two from senior forwards Jordan Lawrence and Kurt Noce. A flashy behind-the-back pass from Vassa set up Lawrence for the one-timer to make it 4-2, and then Noce displayed some flash of his own with a slick move to get around a defender and an ensuing shot to make it 5-2 Temple mid-way through the second period.
After an earlier UMBC goal, penalties appeared to bite Temple yet again after the Owls had three of them slapped onto defensemen Sean Ermigiotti and Chris Carnivale, as well as Mullen on the same play.
Yet Temple survived each UMBC rush in the resulting two minutes of 5-on-3 play and two more minutes of 5-on-4, all but killing off the penalties to thundering applause from the Temple supporters as the period drew to a close. Mullen played a huge part, stopping one shot after the other on the lengthy penalty kill.
“You have to think big picture, especially every time the penalty’s on you,” Mullen said. “You really have to make sure they don’t score on it because it’s your fault. We knew we had to kill those penalties in order to win the game and that’s what we did.”
The Owls spent the latter half of the third period fending off one UMBC rush after another as the Retrievers (14-9) peppered Mullen with 15 shots in the period. After pulling within one with three minutes and 45 seconds left to play, the Owls were able to prevent an equalizer and seal it with an empty-netter from junior forward Joe Pisko.
“It was a total team effort today,” Roberts said. “There’s a list of people you can point to who stepped up, but one of the key things was [Lawrence]. He showed everybody why he has the ‘C’ on his jersey with the way he blocked shots and played really well defensively. It was a great example for everyone to follow.”
After he was pulled in favor of his backup in sophomore Eric Semborski Saturday, Mullen certainly responded Sunday, providing the spark needed in net to combat a ferocious UMBC offensive attack.
“He came through with a sound performance today,” Roberts said. “He did what he was supposed to do even though it wasn’t pretty at times. But he definitely bailed us out a few times and did what he had to do for us to win.”
The win, their first since Dec. 7, gives the Owls a much-needed boost in the playoff hunt as the season nears its end.
“This was a huge game for us to win,” Mullen said. “Hopefully this and a couple other wins will put us into [the ACHA Regional Tournament] and we can take that onto [the ACHA National Tournament], but it’s always good to rebound and have a good game.”
“Our only goal is to get to Nationals,” Noce said. “Beating this team shows that we can beat anyone and hopefully we can get on a good hot streak here and ride that momentum to the end.”
The Owls will look to start that desired hot-streak next weekend when they face two strong conference opponents in Liberty and Virginia Tech Universities on the road.
Andrew Parent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @daParent93.