At this point last year, members of the ice hockey club wondered if they would receive one of the six spots in the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs.
The Owls finished last season with a 7-11 conference record, which left them one point shy of earning the sixth and final playoff berth.
This year is different.
The Owls, at 11-7-1 overall, are currently ranked fourth in the MACHA with a 6-2 conference record.
Senior forward Jerry Roberts, the team’s captain, said the team can still easily move up.
“These wins give us new confidence,” Roberts said.
“The playoffs are more than a dream – it’s a reality that’s going to happen.”
After a slow start, the Owls have won their last seven games. Roberts, the lone senior on the team, attributed the initial losses to the Owls’ ability to adjust to a new coaching staff and the team’s lack of experience. More than half of the 26-man roster is composed of freshmen and sophomores.
“The team is actually coming together,” Roberts said. “We all believe in the system that the new coaching staff is using. These are changes we’re not used to. It took a while, but we made the changes a lot quicker than anticipated. We all thought it was going to be a year of rebuilding.”
Earlier in the season, the Owls also struggled with scoring. Junior defenseman Rob Hughes, an assistant captain, said it’s an area that still requires focus.
“We don’t have a natural goal scorer, so we have to work our butts off to get goals,” Hughes said.
“We look at every game and walk away with what we need to improve on. Lafayette is improving and, to keep up, we have to look to improve.”
With many new players and game strategies, Roberts said he is confident the team will extend its success into postseason play.
“Significant upgrades this year on offense and defense have strengthened every aspect of our game,” Roberts said.
Aside from anticipating MACHA postseason play, the Owls have another goal to shoot for – The American Collegiate Hockey Association regional playoffs.
The ACHA ranks the top 13 teams in each of four regions. Teams ranked three through 10 qualify for the regional playoffs while the top two teams advance directly to the national competition.
The Owls are ranked No. 13 in the Southeast Division. Five other MACHA opponents are also ranked.
Hughes said this was a huge step for the team.
“To be ranked regionally – this is the first time it’s happened to Temple,” Hughes said. “But this is a year of firsts – with a new coach and being ranked.”
The Owls have 11 regular season games remaining to prove they can compete at the regional level.
The Owls take on MACHA rival William Patterson Dec. 2 at the Flyers Skate Zone in Northeast Philadelphia.
Melissa DiPento can be reached at email@example.com.