Temple’s late season push to make the American College Hockey Association(ACHA) regional playoffs became a lot more difficult after Friday night’s game.
Despite coming back from a 3-0 deficit, the Owls (14-11) failed to complete the comeback in a 6-4 loss to conference rival Liberty. The loss makes their final four games must win situations in order to make the playoffs
“We now, more so than ever, need to win out,” head coach Jerry Roberts said following the game.
Temple will play two ACHA Southeast Region Conference games against Virginia Tech (Saturday night) and Rowan (February 8th), plus two non-conference games against Millersville (February 1st) and Monmouth (February 9th) in the four games left on the schedule.
The Owls will have to win all four games in order to have a shot at making the playoffs, starting with their conference rival Virginia Tech.
“Right now, we are only concerned with the next game,” senior forward and team captain Jordan Lawrence said. “If we look ahead, we will be set up to fail.”
In the third period, it seemed like the ‘win out’ scenario was not official just yet.
Down 4-2, sophomore forward Brady O’Donnell scored to cut the lead down to just one.
Just a couple minutes later, senior forward Chris Brennan scored the game-tying goal to make it four all.
Unfortunately, Liberty scored two more goals to take back the lead and pull far enough away from Temple to secure the win.
Liberty’s junior forward Bobby Cervone scored mid-way through the final period for his second goal of the night. Then senior forward Neal Henderson added an insurance goal in the last five minutes of the game for Liberty.
There was a scrum in front of the net following Henderson’s goal, which was a result of Temple’s frustrations boiling over.
The referees ejected Temple’s senior forward Sean Nealis and Liberty’s freshman forward Jeff Boschman from the game with 3:30 left for their involvement in the scrum.
Both players were called for a game misconduct.
Freshman forward Cody Vassa, who leads Temple in scoring, tallied the Owls’ first two goals in the second period, to make it a 4-2 game heading into the third.
It was ultimately a sluggish first period that did the Owls in.
“The biggest issue primarily was the first period,” Coach Roberts said. “We looked very lethargic.”
Part of the problem was committing costly penalties early. Senior defenseman Andrew Trainor went to the penalty box twice in the first period for a boarding call and then a hooking call.
Liberty capitalized on both power play opportunities, with goals from their leading scorer in senior forward Brad Docksteader and freshman defenseman Brandon Cox.
Liberty’s senior forward Kyle Burman would score the team’s third goal of the period, but the goal was scored at even strength.
“The downturn of our season has been penalties,” Lawrence said. “When we went down 3-0 it took the life out of us.”
Liberty’s Cervone scored his first goal of the night in between Vassa’s two goals in the second.
Temple was without some notable players going into Friday night’s game. They were without freshman forwardJayson Marbach, who is out for the rest of the season due to academic ineligibility.
Temple also had to go without senior forward Chris Johnson, whose run on the team has come to an unfortunate end because of symptoms of the early stages of arthritis in his back.
The changes that had to be made to the line because of these two players’ absence is something that coach Roberts attributed to the slow start in the first, stating that it took time for the new lines to gel.
Roberts said that Johnson and Marbach’s absence “definitely put a kink in [Temple’s] plans.”
Now that the game against Liberty is over, Temple has to regroup from a tough loss.
“As far as the players are concerned, we need to move on,” Roberts said.
Although it was crucial already, Saturday night’s game against Virginia Tech carries a lot more significance, now that the last few games are viewed as must wins.
“We are going to be playing a tough game in a tough arena,” Lawrence said.
The team will need to give it everything they have against their conference foe in order to keep their postseason hopes alive.
Nick Tricome can be reached at email@example.com.