The hockey team defeated William Paterson, 6-3.
William Paterson outshot the hockey team, 43 to 24, controlled the puck for most of the game and was consistently on the attack. However, the Owls took advantage of every open opportunity.
Junior goalie Will Neifeld made 40 saves and the Owls scored three power-play goals en route to a 6-3 win over the Pioneers, who were ranked No.2 in the Northeastern Division.
“[We’re] very optimistic after tonight’s performance,” coach Jerry Roberts said. “We talked about playing 60 minutes, we struggled the entire first semester with that. Although it wasn’t pretty at times, this was the first time all season that we got 60 minutes of effort.”
The Temple offense dominated the first half of the first period. The Owls dumped and chased the puck to perfection, allowing for opportunities with loose pucks in front of the net.
In the eighth minute, after senior left winger Ryan Frain’s breakaway attempt was denied, freshman forward Andrew Rafferty’s shot from the point rebounded directly to senior center George Rutter who was in front of an open net. Rutter netted the easy goal to give the Owls an early lead.
“Rafferty had the puck at the point; shot it right to the net,” Rutter said. “I actually went to try to tip it, and it kind of stuck to my stick, so I came around and stuffed it in with a backhand.”
A minute later, the Owls got another goal. Sophomore forward Nick McMahon collected a puck that had sprung loose from a scuffle in the corner and found himself alone in front of the net.
He made one move before sliding the puck through the Pioneers’ freshman goalie Andrew Sullivan’s five-hole to increase the Owls’ lead to two.
“We weren’t really sure of what we had tonight,” Roberts said. “We only had one week of practice coming into this game. We just wanted to contain as much as we could and wait for our chances to come.”
The Owls didn’t let up, and the chances continued to come. After a William Paterson penalty in the tenth minute, the Temple offense quickly set up the power play.
The team moved the puck to the point where freshman forward Matt Benedetto fired a shot past the opposing goalie, who was screened by two Owls, for his first career goal as an Owl. The Owls had a three-goal lead.
“It’s better to be up than to be down,” Neifeld said. “We’ve proven we can come back from deficits, and we’ve proven we can blow leads too, which is why it’s important to play 60 minutes, which is what we played tonight.”
William Paterson did not give up. Just like the Owl’s domination of the first half of the period, the Pioneers controlled the second half, registering 11 shots-on-goal and constantly pressuring Neifeld.
The Pioneers’ relentlessness paid off. After moving the puck into the Temple zone and setting up their offense, the Pioneers’ junior forward Shaun McTique deflected a shot from the point past Neifeld to cut the Owls’ lead to two.
William Paterson continued to get opportunities for the rest of the first period. The team had two more power plays and had four more shots, but Neifeld shut them down. The first period ended with a 3-1 Temple lead despite the fact the Owls were outshot nine to 18.
“It’s not just my effort, it’s a team effort,” Neifeld said. “We made a couple great blocks in front of me. I can’t stress enough – it’s a team effort.”
William Paterson carried its momentum into the second period but was unable to capitalize on its strong play. The Owls got a break in the fifteenth minute after a Pioneers penalty. Temple used the man advantage well, and with a little less than three minutes left, junior forward Pat McHugh was on a breakaway.
He moved to the Pioneer goalie’s left before switching to his backhand and scored the Owls’ second power-play goal of the game. The Owls regained their three-goal lead.
“It’s great to score powerplay goals,” Rutter said. “It’s a great chance to capitalize on bad mistakes by the other team.”
Two minutes into the third period, McTique sent a shot through Neifeld’s five-hole to cut the Owls’ lead back to two. But the Owls came right back as Rafferty tipped in a rebound off of a McHugh shot on a powerplay opportunity three minutes later to ice the game.
“That’s a big part of the way we like to play offense,” Rutter said. “Get the puck to the red line, dump it in and get the puck on net, bang around at the rebounds.”
The Pioneer added a sixth goal by McTique with six minutes remaining, but it came too late. The Pioneers lost to the Owls, 6-3.
“You got to capitalize when you have the opportunity,” Neifeld said. “In order to beat these better teams, we have to capitalize on their mistakes.”
The Owls are now 7-2 in Mid-Atlantic College Hockey Association play and rank second to the University of Maryland – Baltimore County. Their next game is Jan. 21 against Kutztown.
Joey Cranney can be reached at email@example.com.