In what was arguably their biggest game of the season, the Owls came up just short.
The Profs were able to stymie a late Temple bid to tie it in the game’s final moments as the Owls fell 4-2 Friday night in Temple’s final Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey Association contest of the season.
Temple’s American Collegiate Hockey Association Regional Tournament chances very much depended on the outcome of this game, as the Owls (16-12, 4-5 MACHA North) were sitting in the 10th and final qualifying spot going into the contest.
Though it was merely a regular-season game by technicality, it had the look and feel of a playoff game from start to finish.
After Rowan (19-8-1, 6-4 MACHA North) took a 1-0 advantage into the locker room after one period of play, senior forward Chris Brennan knotted the score at one apiece roughly five minutes into the second period, tipping the puck past Rowan senior goalie Brien Bennett in front of the net for a power play goal. Rowan would then go on to grab a 2-1 lead mid-way through the period on a wrist shot that snuck under the arms of Mullen.
A hard-fought, physical contest from the start neared its climax when the Profs took a 3-1 lead with 5:47 remaining in the third period, and forced coach Jerry Roberts to call a timeout as a result.
“[I told them to] not to panic because we still had time,” Roberts said. “Typically when you panic you start to take drastic measure sand try these ridiculous things you wouldn’t normally do and we all know it’s not going to work so stick with the game plan, work a little harder and keep digging.”
“We did that, but the problem was it was just too late at the point,” Roberts said. “You can’t decide with seven minutes left that’s when you want to win the game. It has to be from the moment the puck drops to the end.”
Roberts’ message in the roughly 60-second timeout proved to be a game changer, as senior defenseman Andrew Trainor gave Temple a much-needed spark with a shot from the point that found its way in the back of the net to make it a 3-2 game with just over four minutes left to play.
Although a Temple power play in the game’s final 3:25 produced several scoring chances, the Owls failed to put another one past Bennett. Rowan ended all suspense with an empty-net goal with 7.6 seconds remaining that put an end to the game, and possibly Temple’s regional playoff chances in the process.
“It was there for the taking,” Roberts said. “We sort of shot ourselves in the first period with a slow start, and by the time we really wanted it more than they did it was too late.”
Penalties again proved to be an issue for the Owls, as they often found themselves shorthanded against a very able Rowan power play unit.
“Penalties are always a problem [for us],” Roberts said. “It wasn’t as bad tonight. I think the problem with the penalties tonight was that we took away our five-on-five opportunities. Every minute you’re in the box is a minute that you don’t have a chance to score, and we lost a lot of opportunities to play offense.”
Yet senior goalie Chris Mullen prevented the Profs from netting a goal on the man-advantage with several key stops that kept the Owls in the game.
“He came up big when we needed him,” Roberts said. “There were a couple he was shaky on, but all in all he did what he had to do.”
In order to maintain any chance at making the regional tournament, the Owls will have to come out on top with a convincing victory Saturday when they face Monmouth University on senior night. It will be Temple’s final regular season contest.
“We need Maryland to lose tomorrow and hope that the voters see our way,” Roberts said. “I don’t know how it’s going to go. We need to blow Monmouth out of the water, and hope everything else goes our way.”
Andrew Parent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @daParent93.