As the regular season starts to fade and the playoffs come into focus, the ice hockey team looks to carry its recent success into the postseason.
With the Owls (9-3-0-2 MACHA, 16-10-1-2 overall) currently sitting in third place in their division, their goal of going deeper into the playoffs this year than they did last year seems within striking distance.
“We are right on pace to where we need to be,” coach Aaron Voegtli said.
Last year, the Cherry and White’s season officially ended after losing in regionals. This year, they want to make it to nationals and ultimately win the national championship.
Freshman defenseman Dylan Blank, who has played in 28 of 29 games thus far, is looking forward to the playoffs.
“I’m excited to see what it is and who we play,” Blank said. “I’m excited to get amped up and into the playoff spirit.”
This past Friday, the Owls faced off against Maryland-Baltimore County. The first time these two teams met in October, UMBC came out with an overtime win. Coming off their 12-3 pounding of Seton Hall, the Cherry and White kept up the offensive production, scoring six goals en route to a 6-3 victory.
The next challenge arises the last weekend of the regular season for this hyped-up squad, as it faces off against Rowan and Saint Joseph’s starting on Feb. 14.
Winning those two games would put the Owls in an even better playoff position than they are already in.
“Every game from here on out is a must-win game,” Voegtli said.
Any one game can cause a swing in momentum, either positively or negatively. In the Owls’ case, two games sparked the team, and both were against the same opponent — Rider.
On Sept. 27, 2008, the squad took the ice against the Broncos on its home ice at the Flyers Skate Zone in Northeast Philadelphia. After one period of play, the Owls and the Broncos were deadlocked at two.
Just a mere 25 seconds into the second period, Temple took the lead thanks to graduate forward Jeff Pelus. The Owls dominated the rest of the game, scoring seven goals in the second period and tacking on three more in the final period of play, as the game ended in a 13-3 win for the Owls.
This offensive domination sparked the Cherry and White in a positive way, as they went 3-0-1 in their next four games, including a big win over archrival William Patterson and a tie against Penn State in the two teams’ first-ever matchup.
Sometimes, though, that momentum swings in the opposite direction.
Unfortunately, senior forward Mike Roeding and his troops had to witness this against a team that once gave them the momentum to go four games without a regulation loss.
On Jan. 23, the Owls traveled to Loucks Ice Center for their away game against Rider. The Owls, however, did not handle the Broncos like they did in the previous matchup.
This time, Rider outplayed Temple, outscoring the Owls 5-0, backed by a shutout performance from goalie Bobby Kovarovic. The Owls fired 46 shots on the senior goaltender but were unable to put the puck in the net.
The loss changed this squad.
“It woke us up,” junior forward Ryan Frain said. “It made us realize that we are beatable if we don’t come out and play our game.”
Although this was a downtime for the Owls, it didn’t take long for them to rebound.
“The next night we bounced back against Seton Hall, a team we always had problems with, and beat them, 12-3,” Voegtli said. “You could tell walking through the locker room and on the ice for practices that the team has definitely turned things around and changed focus, and we are ready for the next challenge.”
The Owls’ offense has been led by junior forward Chris Altomare.
Altomare has netted 24 goals so far this season to go along with 23 assists. Roeding, the team captain, and Frain both have 15 goals next to their names on the stat sheet. Pelus has 37 points. He’s scored 11 goals and dished out 26 assists. Seven other Owls are in double-digits in the points column.
John Mehler can be reached at email@example.com.