The ice hockey club has struggled this season with a 6-11 record, but it has won three of its last five games thanks to junior goalie Hayden Richards.
Richards gave up five goals in two periods against Montclair State University Oct. 11.
He started two games later against Drexel Oct. 18 and rejected 49 of the Dragons blasts in a shootout win. Since his struggles against Montclair State, the junior has gone 3-2 and leads the team, saving 87.2 percent of the shots that have come his way through seven games.
“He played well for us in that Drexel game and really gave us a fighting chance to win,” coach Roman Bussetti said “I think the team started playing real good in front of him and had confidence in him knowing he is going to go out there and battle. He didn’t let up any goals that were questionable and everything looked really clean.”
The Newtown, Pennsylvania native is in his first season with the Owls, despite his upperclassman status.
Richards started his collegiate career when he transferred to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to play at the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division 2 level for his sophomore season after a year at the University of Delaware. After playing sparingly behind starter John Jackson, Richards transferred to Temple last spring to be closer to home.
“My first semester, I was just trying to get my grades together and adjust to a new school, but I definitely wanted to get back to it,” Richards said. “I’m glad I did. I made a lot of friends on the team, and it has been a good experience.”
Bussetti tabbed sophomore goalie Scott Salamon to start the season after he posted a 7-2-1 record, saving 90.7 percent of shots faced during his freshman year. Salamon started against mostly Division 2 teams last year, but Temple moved up to Division 1 in the Eastern Collegiate Hockey Association conference this past July.
Salamon’s first-year success didn’t translate, as he gave up an average of 5.7 goals through six games and the team started the season 2-4.
A concussion against Lehigh University sidelined Salamon and forced Bussetti to turn to Richards. Richards struggled in the start, giving up five goals through two periods. Freshman goalie Zack Burkhardt finished the game and gave up three goals.
After Burkhardt surrendered 13 combined goals against Penn State and Lehigh University, Richards got his second chance against Drexel.
“My first game, I think it was against Montcalir State, I struggled,” Richards said. “I hadn’t seen the box for a while. I wasn’t feeling great. Fortunately, I got another shot and got an opportunity.”
Richards received advice from former Temple goalie coach Ted Wood on controlling rebounds and advice on staying aggressive from senior forward Stephen Kennedy. Teammates have since seen a boost in the junior’s play in practice.
“I noticed when he was struggling more in his first few starts that he started working harder in practice,” junior defenseman Matt Krulikowski said. “I know the other night he was having [sophomore forward] Kenny Orlando shoot on him a bit after practice, so he’s always trying to get out there and get better. I think when he started doing that and started really bearing down at practice that is when he turned it around.”
Salamon came back from his head injury to start the next two games for the Owls, but he gave up seven goals in each of the contests. Bussetti started Richards for the following four games, who went 2-2 and gave up an average of five goals per game.
Salamon started for the Owls against Villanova Nov. 22 and limited the Wildcats to four goals through 59 minutes. Villanova scored two goals in the final 23 seconds, but Salamon blanked the Wildcats in a shootout win.
“It’s good knowing that you have two goalies back there and it doesn’t matter which one of them plays, they’re going to make the stops,” Krulikowski said. “Every game we’ve played, they’ve taken at least 40 shots, and they’ve made 35 or 40 saves. It’s nice knowing you have someone back there that can handle the pressure.”
Friday night frights
A problem for the Owls this season has been their games on Friday nights, posting a 1-6 record and allowing 2.9 goals per contest. Temple is 4-5, scoring 4.5 goals per game, on Saturdays and Sundays.
“The game time, I don’t want to use that as an excuse because we should always show up, but for whatever reason the late Friday games have given us trouble all year so far,” senior defenseman Jason Lombardi said after a 9-1 loss to Penn State Oct. 16. “I don’t know if it is a mental thing, or if it’s just coincidence, but we just don’t show up for late games and it’s starting to get frustrating.”
Bussetti has stressed conditioning in practice since the season started and has extended practice by an hour, but thinks the struggles might be over a lack of communication.
“I look at it as a game by game thing and not a night by night thing,” Bussetti said. “In the Pittsburg game we played great and that was a Friday night. I don’t know if it’s that I am not communicating what they are used to hearing or they’re not understanding what I’m saying, but I think we are growing through some of those pains and we are playing better hockey.”
Stephen Godwin Jr. can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @StephenGodwinJr