First-year coach Mark Spease has set a strategic target for his team to reach during games.
He wants Temple to take at least 40 shots per game in the hopes this strategy will result in more wins. The Owls have a 3-1 record when they reach the 40-shot mark. Through the first 11 games in the 2016-17 season, the Owls accomplished this feat once in a 40-shot performance in a loss to Villanova on Oct. 9, 2016.
Temple started its season with a rise in offensive production. The team ranks third in goals per game and third in power-play percentage in the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s Eastern Collegiate Hockey Association division.
The Owls (4-6-1) have averaged 3.5 goals per game and converted on 20.5 percent of their power plays.
“We’re in more games when we can score like that,” senior forward Joey Powell said.
Last year, the Owls finished the season last in the ECHA with a 2.5 goals per game average. They ranked fifth out of seven teams in power-play scoring, capitalizing on 14.3 percent of their chances.
Senior defenseman and captain Ryan Dumbach said Temple is playing a more “structured” game this year than it did last season. The team is working more on having its defensemen move the puck and having its forwards play better in their own zone, he said.
Dumbach credits new passing drills with helping the team build chemistry among its new lines.
Powell and Dumbach are the team’s only two seniors, and they are setting the pace with their play. Powell is second in the ECHA with 17 points and is tied for first with eight goals. He scored twice in the season opener against Millersville University on Sept. 8. Powell’s second goal gave the Owls an overtime win.
Dumbach is first in the ECHA with 12 assists and tied for third in points with 16. He is also the division’s highest-scoring defenseman with six more points than the next player. He had a four-assist performance in the team’s 7-5 win against St. Joseph’s on Sept. 30. Two of the assists came in the third period on game-tying goals.
“I really try not to focus on me,” Dumbach said. “I’ve really just been happy with…winning more games. We’ve gelled a little bit more, and it helps that we’ve had a lot of really good, young new guys come in.”
Freshman forwards Brendan Ondick and Eric DiPretoro are among the Owls’ 13 freshmen. Ondick is tied for first in the ECHA with eight goals and leads in points with 18. Ondick scored twice and had an assist against St. Joseph’s.
DiPretoro is fourth on the team with 10 points, which includes a two-point performance in Temple’s home-opening win against the State University of New York at Cortland on Sept. 22.
“They’re great,” said Powell, who has spent most of the season centering a line with Ondick and DiPretoro on the wings. “I love playing with them. They know what they’re doing. They’re smart. They move their feet.”
The Owls have tallied 38 goals while surrendering 48 this year. Through 11 games last season, the Owls scored 22 goals while allowing 66. The team did not score its 38th goal until its 18th game last season.
Special teams have contributed to the team’s offense. Temple has taken advantage of its opponents’ penalties to score eight power-play goals. Two of the goals came in a 4-3 win against the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York on Oct. 7.
“With our team being a little bit better, we’ve had some more power-play opportunities and a little bit more time in the offensive zone and I think everybody benefits from that together,” Dumbach said.
In addition to scoring with an extra man, the Owls have been able to score six goals while shorthanded. They scored four times while shorthanded in four games from Oct. 6-14. In those four games, the Owls doubled their shorthanded goal total from last season.
Though the offense has statistically improved from last season, Spease would still like to see even more progress. Temple has been outshot in seven of its 11 games.
Spease wants the Owls’ power-play percentage to climb into the 20-percent range.
“I think it’s possible if you get the right personnel and the right systems,” Spease said. “The hardest part so far is, because it’s so young in the season, is finding the right personnel. Not everyone is made for the power play. There’s definitely room for improvement, and the systems we’re trying to implement should result in more offensive possibilities.”