Late in the third period of a hard fought contest at the University of Pennsylvania’s Class of ’23 Rink on Saturday afternoon, the Lions were down a goal, on the power play.
With two Lions defensemen at the points and three more forwards down low, the unit put on a passing display exposing the defense of Penn and eventually tying the game at three.
Junior defenseman Hunter Carson dumped the puck down low to the Lions season leader in points, Scott McClintic. As McClintic walked the puck in a few paces, the short-handed defense gravitated toward him and the junior forward Arno Miller who was crashing the net down the slot.
This left the weak side open for Lions captain Elie Klein, who recently returned last weekend from injury after a six-game absence, to sneak into the play unnoticed. A quick pass through the crease from McClintic allowed Klein to punch the puck in through the back door completing the comeback of a two-goal deficit faced by the Lions entering the final period of play.
Klein also put home the goal that brought the College within one.
“Once we scored that first goal,” said senior forward Mike Kaufer, “the momentum shifted back into our favor, and we really took control of the game.”
A five-minute overtime period would occur with no markers for either team, thus, ending the game in a tie.
“Although we didn’t win, this was definitely one of our best games of the year,” Miller said. “Even though we had a short bench, we were sill able to battle back and grind out a tie against a good UPenn team.”
A key to the Lions hard fought tie was the play of goaltender Justin Zegal who stopped nearly 40 shots. His high save percentage has been a common theme throughout this season as his teammates have taken notice.
“Hands down, Justin is one of the best goalies nationwide in the ACHA (American Collegiate Hockey Association),” McClintic said. “He is the sole reason for many of our wins this season. He is consistent, a hard worker, and has a strong desire to win every game. He had incredible games in both the tie at UPenn, and his shutout against Kutztown.”
In the two-game series played at Kutztown two weekends ago, the Lions swept both contests in grand fashion with 11-0 shutout in game one and an 8-3 victory in the second.
Looking back in a few weeks, that pair of wins may prove to be a turning point in a season that, prior to those wins, had seen only three victories through 11 games. However, that weekend, Elie Klein, Vinny LaRosa, and Scott McClintic played together on first line for the first time in weeks, and a team that had been struggling to find offense was producing goals at a rapid rate once again.
“With Vinny and Elie back in the lineup the momentum has finally started to shift in our favor,” McClintic said. “In the last three games I believe our line has scored around 15 goals. The chemistry is definitely there. Those two guys are huge impact players on our team.”
The Lions next game is on Friday night at home against rival Rider University.
“I expect there to be a lot of excitement and motivation to win against Rider,” McClintic said. “It will be a true test of character for everyone, as many of the rookies haven’t played in front of such large crowds before. But if we maintain our composure, and aren’t sucked in to the intense atmosphere, I think we have the skill to beat them. We’ll be ready.”