Frustration continues to mount for the struggling ice hockey club after two losses last weekend extending the losing streak to eight games.
The Owls were outscored 7-2 on Saturday at University of Maryland-Baltimore County in a game that could only be described as fluky and frustrating by the team. Then they returned to Philadelphia to play their first game on home ice in a month only to be beaten 4-3 in overtime in a controversial ending.
“It’s very frustrating, especially after last year’s success,” senior forward George Rutter said. “We know we’re better than our record, we just haven’t been able to play consistently for a full 60 minutes.”
Coming into the weekend, the coaching staff was aware of the potent offense for UMBC and game planned around stopping the Retriever’s top forwards. Coach Jerry Roberts also emphasized playing at a high level for the entire game, which has been the main issue plaguing the team through the first month of the season.
It seemed to be going the Owls’ way through the first period as they took the early one goal lead on a power play goal. The power play woes from the early part of the season have settled, but there still seems to be inconsistency woes. The two teams went back and forth in an even second period before things got crazy in the third.
The Retrievers scored early in the final period, dealing a huge blow to the Owls’ momentum.
“They got that goal early in the period and it seemed to deflate us a little bit,” Rutter said. “After that one, we seemed to fall apart a little.”
The rest of the period was chippy and fluky as UMBC scored four times on a couple questionable goals including one where the puck bounced off the glass behind the net so hard that it bounced back off the goalies back and into the goal. As the game started slipping away and frustration mounted, there were some misconduct penalties.
“The wheels kind of came off in the third period there,” Roberts said. “They had some fluky goals and we had some bad luck. It kind of seemed like a microcosm of our season.”
Junior forward Sean O’Connor had a goal and four assists to lead UMBC, while junior forward Sean Nealis and senior forward Taylor Lockhart each had power play goals for Temple.
Sunday provided a chance for the team to redeem themselves while enjoying the comforts of playing on their home ice for the first time since the first game of the season.
Maryland and Temple battled back in forth after junior forward Kurt Noce scored in the first, exchanging goals back and forth until late in the third when Temple held the 3-2 lead. That lead was sustained until the 59th minute when the Terrapins made the call to pull their goalie and scored in the final minute with the man advantage to send the game to overtime.
In extra time, the Owls’ neighbors from the south added the winning tally on a controversial play that Roberts felt should have been blown dead for offsides. The referees didn’t blow the whistle and the game was decided, resulting in the eighth straight loss for Temple. Sophomore goalie Chris Mullen stopped 37 of 41 shots in his second start of the weekend and season.
“I didn’t see if it was offsides or not but if we would’ve closed and been better in the third then we wouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place,” senior defenseman Jordan Lawrence said.
“All five guys need to be on the same page out there,” Lawrence added, regarding the defense. “Right now there aren’t enough people taking initiative.”
Virginia Tech and Liberty University come to town for next weekend’s slate, and with the struggles early in the season, a dip in morale could be an obvious concern. But Lawrence was reassuring that it wouldn’t be a problem.
“We were pretty down and the locker room was pretty quiet, but the good thing is we get to have practice tomorrow so we can get back to work and not sit around thinking about the losses,” Lawrence said.
Brandon Stoneburg can be reached at email@example.com.