Though Temple’s 5-3 defeat of Millersville Friday was a victory on the scoreboard, it might as well have been a loss to all involved.
A game that had the earmarks of a Temple blowout on paper was anything but, as the Marauders (13-6-1) used a combination of fight and luck to make it a close contest.
After first period goals from senior forward Jordan Lawrence and sophomore forward Dave Brewer, junior forward Joe Pisko netted his team-leading 17 goal of the season to make it a seemingly comfortable 3-0 Temple lead mid-way through the second period.
It was from there on that Temple’s ongoing problem with penalties took center stage once again.
For the Owls (16-11), it was as if they were acting off a re-used script as 11 Temple penalties resulted in 22 penalty minutes and two Millersville power play tallies late in the second period made it a 3-2 contest.
“We struggled with the mental side of the game today and I think it was most evident in the penalties we took,” Roberts said. “The penalties we took were stupid and they were lazy. It was all mental stuff [Friday].”
“It’s definitely been an ongoing problem for us,” senior defenseman Andrew Trainor said. “We know we have to take less. It’s so much we have to take less penalties as opposed to having to take less of the stupid penalties. It’s the mental penalties that we want to eliminate from our game more-so than the penalties from hard-fought, physical plays.”
Lawrence netted his second goal of the night with 18:04 left in the final period and, after a Marauders tally made it 4-3, senior forward Sean Nealis put a capper on the night with a goal mid-way through the third to clinch the 5-3 Temple victory.
In looking for positives to take out of an overall underwhelming performance, Roberts pointed to the rejuvenating play of Lawrence, who has stepped up in a forward role after being moved to the position from his usual spot on the blue line.
“He’s been everything and more we could ask him to be the past few weeks,” Roberts said. “He’s really stepped up in a huge way. He’s always been a good player but never to this level.”
“By nature, I’m more of a defenseman,” Lawrence said. “But growing up playing offense you pick up on it again, and playing with highly skilled players like Pisko and [freshman forward Cody Vassa]make my job a lot easier. Goals are an added bonus, but it’s nice to score them especially when it’s helping the team out.”
In a game where the Owls were looking to make a statement heading into a critical match-up Feb. 8 with conference rival Rowan University (16-7-2), Roberts acknowledged that Friday’s on-ice performance was not the confidence-boosting victory he was hoping for prior to game time.
“It was up and then it was down the rest of the way,” Roberts said. “We came out flying I thought. We were doing everything and then we just got too comfortable and had a lot of mental breakdowns. It all stemmed from us being very comfortable with our opponent.”
“They’re going to step up to play [against Rowan],” Roberts said. “One thing I will give our guys credit for is they will step up when they need to and they recognize that Rowan is a team we need to beat in order to make the [American Collegiate Hockey Association Regional Tournament]. With myself being a former player and not too removed from playing, I know those games are a different mindset with a different level of focus and concentration. We have no doubt these guys will rise to the occasion next week.”
With an 11th place ranking in the ACHA Southeast Region, the Owls have to upset No. 5 Rowan in order to keep their playoff hopes alive.
“Every game depends on the game we’re playing right now,” Trainor said. “If we had lost [Friday], next weekend wouldn’t have mattered. If we lose next Friday night, Saturday’s game [against Monmouth University] won’t matter. We just have to stay focused, come out and try to jump out on Rowan quick because we know that if we get out to a slow start against Rowan, they’ll just hold on to it and make us pay for it.”
Andrew Parent can be reached at email@example.com or on twitter @daParent93.