For the first time in three years, the ice hockey club team finished its regular season unsure if it had qualified for the postseason.
This week will be a trying one for the Owls, who await the outcome of Sunday’s game between Penn and Lafayette. The contest was originally scheduled for last Saturday, but was postponed due to inclement weather.
If the Quakers – currently seeded fourth in the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey Association standings – beat Lafayette, then the Owls will claim the sixth and final seed in the MACHA playoffs.
The Owls finished the regular season with a 7-11 record. If Lafayette beats Penn, the Leopards will improve to 7-10-1 and will earn the final playoff spot.
Senior forward Jerry Roberts said he is relatively confident the Owls will see postseason action.
“It’s pretty likely that it’s going to happen, but there is still always that chance [that it won’t],” Roberts said.
If the Owls receive a playoff berth, they will face third-seeded William Patterson. Earlier this season, the Owls dropped two consecutive games to the Pioneers, 9-5 and 4-1.
Roberts said he feels the Owls would be able to beat them in the first round, if given the opportunity.
“Our most recent loss [to the Pioneers] showed that we can beat them. It was a really close game,” Roberts said. “Even though it was 4-1, they had scored an empty-netter so it was pretty much a two goal game. We have a more-than-realistic shot of beating them. We actually expect to beat them.”
This season has been a difficult one for the team. This is the Owls’ first season in the MACHA. Before joining, the Owls played in the Delaware Valley Collegiate Hockey Conference, which wasn’t as competitive.
After winning the DVCHC title in three consecutive seasons, the Owls face the possibility of missing the playoffs.
Sophomore defenseman Rob Hughes said he is frustrated with the team’s undecided playoff destiny.
“It’s definitely a tougher league this year,” Hughes said. “Last year we had our depth going into the playoffs. We were looking for our third straight championship in a row and this year it’s the complete opposite. It’s hard to take after being on such a driven team last year and now we’re struggling just to make the playoffs.”
Entering the new league has also required the Owls to make some adjustments as a team.
“We feel comfortable playing at this level, but now we have to [come to] play every single night,” Roberts said. “There were no easy games and that was something that no one was used to.”
A couple players have said that their rigorous schedule has kept them on the playoff bubble.
“The league is a lot tougher and our team can get disheartened pretty quick,” Hughes said. “Once a strong team has the lead on us, we seem to collapse sometimes.”
The new league has also presented the Owls with a playoff situation that they haven’t experienced in years.
In the MACHA, the top six teams make the postseason tournament. The first- and second-ranked teams each receive byes.
The third- and sixth-seeded teams compete and the fourth- and fifth-seeded teams compete, with the winners playing against the No. 1- and No. 2-seeded teams. Each game is single elimination.
In the DVCHC, only five teams advanced. The first team received a bye and the fourth and fifth seeded teams played in a wild card round.
The finals were determined in a best-of-three format.
Roberts said he is excited about the MACHA playoffs since it will give his team an advantage over many of the other teams competing.
“This really favors us because a team like [first seeded] Wagner is supposed to be one of the best teams in the country this year,” Roberts said.
“We might only beat them one out of 10 times when we play them, but in this conference, it’s one-and-done.
You only have to be better than a team for 60 minutes. Last year, we played best-of-three. We might be able to beat a team [like that] once, but not twice.”
Melissa DiPento can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.