In a game filled with 21 penalties, heavy physical play and bad blood, the ice hockey team pulled out a win Saturday.
Senior forward Ryan Frain scored two goals, junior goalie Will Neifeld made nearly 40 saves and the Owls rallied to overcome a 1-0 deficit in the third period to beat St. Joseph’s, 3-2.
“This was a huge statement for us,” coach Jerry Roberts said. “We’ve had a lot of challenges in the early portion of the season as far as our players having the ability to play 60 minutes and stay focused and be a mature team. I think they made a huge statement to themselves tonight, showing what they’re able to accomplish when they have mental toughness.”
The Owls lacked mental toughness in the first two periods. Despite dominating puck control early on and registering 14 shots on goal in the first period, Temple’s offense was consistently crippled by penalties. The Owls had to kill four penalties in the first 20 minutes, and the first period ended scoreless.
“A lot of it had to do with the dumb penalties we were taking,” Frain said. “We weren’t really playing smart hockey.”
The second period saw a shift of momentum toward the St. Joe’s side. A superior St. Joe’s checking game led to almost total control of the puck. Temple committed seven penalties, and St. Joe’s registered 23 shots on goal. But the Owls’ penalty kill, along with Niefeld’s play bailed them out. The game remained scoreless after the second period.
“Our defense was unbelievable on the [penalty kill],” senior forward and team captain Jordan Lawrence said. “[Niefeld] played unbelievable. He really saved us in the first two periods. We broke down a lot with penalties. It was a great team effort in the first two periods defensively.”
In addition to the penalties, Temple’s offense struggled mightily in the second period. The Owls registered only three shots on goal for the entire period and failed to capitalize on their lone power-play opportunity.
“We weren’t taking any shots or generating any offense,” Frain said. “Penalties killed us the first two periods. We were playing awful.”
“We weren’t executing,” Roberts added. “It was beyond the penalties. We weren’t playing our style of hockey. The penalties were frustrating, but the bigger concern we had coming into the locker room after two periods was the fact that we weren’t playing our game.”
It was a physical game for the first two periods. There was a scuffle involving two Temple players and two St. Joe’s players after a Hawks player crosschecked Lawrence from behind after play had stopped. There were four offsetting roughing penalties distributed between the two teams.
“It’s pretty fun. A lot of guys in the locker room after the first period were saying this was the most fun they’ve had,” Lawrence said. “It gets cheap sometimes, but that’s part of the game. You just deal with it.”
“Temple and St. Joe’s has been a rivalry for as long as we’ve played,” Roberts added. “It’s one of those situations where, when you get in the rink with them, no matter what the standings are or how your seasons are going, it’s always going to a battle. It’s always going to be a close game. It’s one that the locker room gets up for. It’s pretty exciting.”
Temple came out in the third period looking like a new team. The Owls’ offense immediately set up a scoring chance, and after just 55 seconds, Frain put back his own rebound to tie the score.
“I think the light kind of went on in the locker room,” Roberts said. “We just had to get back to playing our style of game and not get caught up in their antics.”
“That first goal when we came out in the first minute of the third really helped us out,” Lawrence said. “We took off from there.”
Temple continued to control the puck and set up the offense early in the third. After two minutes and 40 seconds, senior forward George Rutter scored a rebound goal off sophomore forward Chris Hacken’s shot to give the Owls the lead.
“All four lines contributed,” Frain said. “We got the puck in deep. We generated offense. We got a couple goals. They weren’t able to touch us down there.”
Frain added his second goal of the game on a power play with 8:43 left to give the Owls a 3-1 lead. St. Joe’s scored a power play goal with 4:04 left to make it interesting, but Neifeld shut the Hawks down for the final four minutes. The Owls won the game, 3-2.
The Owls won six of their last eight games and are 8-2-0-1 on the season and 3-1 in the Mid-Atlantic College Hockey Association Northern conference. A win against the in-conference rival provided a momentum boost for the team.
“Next weekend we play UMBC, who’s No. 1 in the region and arguably one of the top teams in the country,” Roberts said. “It’s a great stepping stone going into next week.”
Joey Cranney can be reached at email@example.com.