Ice hockey skates past adversity

The Lions block shots en route to their third consecutive win. (Julie Kayzerman / Nation & World Editor)

With 39.3 seconds left in the game, the Lions scored the winning goal against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) after becoming fired up due to a skeptical call on the ice that denied them of what should have been a goal about five minutes earlier in the period.

With the game just seconds away from ending in a 2-2 tie, senior captain Nick Lisciandro put the puck in the net during a power play for the Lions, sending a direct message that the controversial call wasn’t going to stop them.

Senior John Czarnik made the game a final score of 4-2 with an empty net goal with 11 seconds left on the clock.

“I told them in there that the puck never lies,” head coach Joseph Cucci said, upset with the call. “That was definitely a goal, but they responded. They executed.”

With RPI taking a timeout during the last minutes of the game, Cucci told his team to put the bad call behind them and forget about it, according to senior captain Kush Patel.

“We recognized it was a crappy call,” Patel said. “But we kind of just went by it and everyone on the bench was just reiterating that we still have a couple of minutes left and still have a chance at winning this, so let’s just try to score the next one.”

“Then we got that power play and we knew we had a chance of getting that goal and it happened,” he said.

Trailing 1-0 early in first, the College responded to RPI immediately, skating hard and blocking shots for a full three periods.

“We competed,” Cucci said. “We were fighting for the puck. I don’t think this was the best game that we’ve played all year by any stretch, but we just competed from start to finish.”

Allowing the Lions to walk off the first period with a tie was Patel with five minutes left, sneaking the puck past the goalie.

Coming out just as strong in the second period, Patel scored again at 11:15, giving his team the lead.

“I think we were pretty persistent throughout the whole game,” Patel said. “We never let up a single moment. Yesterday I think we somehow found a way to come back. They tied it 2-2, and we battled back the entire game. We never lost hope, and I think that was the biggest thing, especially after playing them last year. We were kind of redeeming ourselves (after losing to RPI 8-3 last year), if you will.”

In large part, the success of the College during the game was the undeniable chemistry of the “purple line,” made up of Patel, Lisciandro and sophomore Sal DiBrita, who collectively produced a total of four points, including three goals and an assist.

“Every shift you’re on there, go out hard until that last buzzer,” Patel said. “Our line is a good example of balance.”

Patel recalled a shot DiBrita blocked at Friday’s game against Lafayette, which ended in a 10-1 win.

“Sal blocked a big shot on Friday that actually led to a goal (for the College). That kind of sums it up right there. Sal’s defense transitions into our offense. I think it’s a good mix. He’s got more of a defensive aspect and Nick and I are more forward and we kind of complement each other, but without Sal, it’s not possible.”

Cucci has been coaching Patel for four years now, with Patel being a captain for two of those four.

“He’s a pleasure to coach,” Cucci said. “Every day he does the right thing, on the ice and off the ice. He’s always working. He’s helping other guys. I never have to worry about him. He’s been fantastic. He’s a great hockey player, even better person.”

With a record of 3-1 so far in their season, the Lions will go on to compete against NJIT for a second time this season on Friday, Oct. 4, following up with a home game on Saturday, Oct. 5 against Wagner College.

“We want the mentality to be here,” Cucci said. “Every time we step on the ice we’re going to work, work, work and we’re going to outwork the person across from us. I thought that shone through today with 60 full minutes of just competing.”