After making a national tournament appearance last year, the Owls drop to 1-6.
Two more road games and two more losses came out of the weekend for the ice hockey club as the Owls lost to Siena twice. The power play woes from previous games were seemingly fixed, but the defense was questionable.
“It would be easy for us to get down on ourselves and question our team but we put things in perspective,” coach Jerry Roberts said. “All the losses have been on the road and against really good teams. We might not be at the level to beat these top teams at this point but we’re not far behind.”
On Friday, Siena won 6-3 while outshooting Temple 43-17 and scoring all six goals in the first two periods. Saturday, the Owls came closer but still were on the losing end of a 3-2 final score.
The Owls were facing off with a potent Siena team in an atmosphere that they were not accustomed to. The Saints are one of the few colleges on the East Coast that use an Olympic-size rink instead of the standard National Hockey League size. An Olympic-sized rink is 20 feet longer and 15 feet wider, which puts a wrinkle in the way the offense and defense sets up plays and spaces themselves out.
“We were trying to get used to our surroundings,” Roberts said. “They’re used to it but we have no way of simulating it in practice so it took us about 40 minutes to adjust and get used to it.”
Junior forward Joe Pisko scored his third goal of the season halfway through the first period to tie the score at one. It was the first Temple power play goal of the season, something that Roberts said he stressed all week in practice and emphasized to his team that it needed to change.
“We worked on it a lot in practice and we started to settle down more in the zone and set up instead of just shooting anything,” senior offensive captain George Rutter said.
Siena responded a few minutes later with two even-strength goals before the first period ended to give the Saints a two-goal lead. The deficit was up to three before junior forward Sean Nealis tallied his second goal of the season off junior forward Chris Johnson assist. Another Siena score gave the Saints a three-goal lead and Roberts made the decision to pull senior goalie Will Neifeld.
“He was playing well, but the team needed a wake up call so we pulled him and changed up the offensive line combinations to try and find a spark,” Roberts said. “The team did play better after the changes.”
Temple did add a goal in the third and held Siena scoreless, but the damage was already done and the final was 6-3.
“We were passive and we let them do what they wanted in our zone,” senior defensive captain Jordan Lawrence said. “We were on our heels for a while.”
The Cherry and White had a chance to redeem themselves in game two with the Saints the next night. Junior defenseman Steve Ermigiotti started off his eventful night with a goal in the first, his first of the season. Siena scored on a power play early in the second to tie it up before things got interesting late in the second.
Ermigiotti was called for a cross checking penalty that he disagreed with and made sure to let the referee know about it. The referee took exception, hit Ermigiotti with a 10-minute misconduct and put Siena on the extended power play. The Saints took full advantage by adding two scores, making it 3-1.
“It was definitely frustration,” Roberts said. “We took a lot of penalties because of lapses of focus and I felt we lost the game in that five to seven minute stretch.”
Temple had an impressive third period in which they spent most of the time in Siena’s zone and seemed to have them on the ropes, but couldn’t pull of the rally and lost 3-2. Neifeld stopped 42 of the 45 shots he faced and the team converted two of seven power plays.
The sixth straight loss dropped the record to 1-6 and the team will face University of Maryland Baltimore County on the road Saturday and University of Maryland on Sunday at 1:50 p.m. at the Northeast Philadelphia Skatezone.
“We’re facing such good competition,” Lawrence said. “We’re losing but we know this is going to make us better as the season goes on.”
Brandon Stoneburg can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.