A healthy scratch of Temple defenseman Jason Lombardi proved costly Friday night, when Lehigh forwards Kevin McGee and Henry Brooks each scored two goals en route to Lehigh’s 7-4 defeat of the visiting Owls at Steel Ice Arena.
Lehigh goalie Paul Sjostrom also supplemented his team by denying nearly everything Temple threw at him, as he faced nearly 40 shots.
Lombardi had surgery on his shoulder this past offseason, but did not get cleared to play hockey until just before the season opener.
Lombardi’s absence allowed the Mountain Hawks to skate through the Owls’ defensive zone and test Temple goalie Scott Salamon with open looks.
“I will take the blame on that one,” Frain said. “I guess I wanted to rest his shoulder and get some other guys in the lineup and have him ready to rock for tomorrow’s game and the games next weekend. I don’t think that was such a great decision on my part.”
The Mountain Hawks also capitalized on four power play chances that accounted for most of their scoring.
Owls Defenseman Chris Carnivale is typically partnered with Lombardi on his line, but said that Lombardi’s presence would not have made a huge difference.
“The main thing was their hustle,” Carnivale said. “They outskated us for most of the night. They really put the pressure on and they just wanted the puck more.”
The loss spoiled the return trip of forwards Brady O’Donnell, Cody Vassa and defenseman Anthony Civitella. O’Donnell took the homecoming in stride as he led the team with two goals, while Vassa dished out three assists.
“Vassa’s passing today was really on,” O’Donnell said. “Every time I looked back at my stick [the puck] was right there and I think we’re able to work well together because of it.”
Temple found itself in unfamiliar territory after Mountain Hawk defenseman Justin Uzcateji struck early in the first period.
Near the end of the period the Owls tied the game up with a goal from O’ Donnell, assisted by Vassa and Civitelli.
Things continued to fall apart for the Owls in the second period when Lehigh added two more goals to lead, 3-1.
The Owls cut the deficit to 3-2 in the third period off a goal by forward Steve Kennedy, but the Mountain Hawks were quick to answer.
Lehigh’s response was helped by one of the Owls defenders almost 30 seconds later when they scored another goal to stretch it to 4-2. One of the Owls’ defensemen was trying to defend a Lehigh attacker, but accidentally pushed the opposition and the puck into the net.
The Mountain Hawks piled on two more goals before O’Donnell ignited a rally with a goal off another Vassa pass.
Temple crept a little closer when Carnivale took a pass from Vassa and beat Sjostrum to get it to 6-4.
With time running out late in the third, the Owls pulled Salamon with under two minutes left, but the plan backfired when Lehigh knocked in an empty-netter.
“I think we panicked a little bit too much when we were down and just tried to do too much on the offensive side and we kind of got caught against some odd man rushes going the other way,” Frain said.
The team has a quick turnaround as it faces Rowan University Saturday night.
Stephen Godwin Jr. can be reached at Stephen.firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @StephenGodwinJr.