With 1:26 left on the clock in a five-minute overtime period, men’s ice hockey senior captain Scott Rothlisberger sniped the puck into the net, giving the College a dramatic win against Kutztown University on their home ice this past weekend on Friday, Nov. 1.
“It felt amazing to get that goal,” Rothlisberger said. “Kutztown won the league last year. It was great to get a big win.”
After being outskated by Kutztown and skating sluggish for the first two periods, the College trailed 3-1 at the end of the second period before finally picking up their game in the third.
“We started playing better in the second half,” head coach Joseph Cucci said. “We were just looking for that one goal. Our philosophy is if we get that next one, we’ll be fine. We’ll get the momentum back on our side and we’ll build. We were able to get it late in the period and then we were just playing hockey, finally. It took us two and a half periods.”
Nevertheless, “incredible” was the word Cucci used to describe his feeling as he stepped off the bench. “We were resilient,” he said.
With 5:20 left in the game and the College trailing by two goals, senior captain Kush Patel finally capitalized on a power-play goal, giving his team the momentum to get out there and go for another.
Shortly after, sophomore Sal DiBrita scored his second goal of the season and the game-tying goal off of a one-touch pass from senior Nick Lisciandro, forcing the game into an exciting overtime and eventually to a 4-3 victory with nothing but smiles from the players as they skated off the ice.
“The game we lost last Sunday was one of the worst losses I’ve had here just in terms of feelings,” Cucci said in reference to the College’s 6-5 loss against Central Connecticut State University. “I thought we played well enough to win last time and it just was a hard battle. We were on the other side of it last week, so to come back and fight back tonight is just the other side of the coin where you’re just so happy that you can’t put it into words.”
But Friday night’s game wasn’t the only dramatic play of the weekend for the Lions as they took to their home ice again on Saturday, seeking revenge against Muhlenberg College, the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year.
“This weekend was one we circled once the schedule came out,” Rothlisberger said. “We wanted revenge against Muhlenberg and I don’t think there’s any other team in our league we want to beat more than Kutztown. We wanted these games badly.”
It was another tough struggle for the College until late in the third period, despite freshman Will Sulpizio scoring early in the first 30 seconds of the game.
The Lions seemed to continuously fall victim to several turnovers near blue line as they let up two shorthanded goals during the game, not playing with their usual intensity.
However, the turning point of the game came with 10 minutes left in the third period as Muhlenberg took a five-minute major penalty from an elbow to the head with the score at 3-3, with defenders Rothlisberger and junior Nick Wilechansky contributing the second and third goals for the Lions.
Muhlenberg’s second shorthanded goal of the night came during the five-minute power play after junior goalie David Laub made an incredible first save.
Finally, the Lions got fired up as two rookies, Sulpizio and freshman Luke May, each scored two power-play goals within 20 seconds of each other, giving the College a 5-4 lead to hold off for a nerve-wracking seven minutes, until the buzzer finally sounded, giving the Lions their highly-sought after revenge.
“We found a way to win another one,” Cucci said. “Somehow we’re finding ways. I’m happy with the win, of course. It’s a win. But I’m not happy with the play these past two games. We need to get better. Every weekend we have to work to improve individually and as a team. I wish we would’ve played better, but a win is a win.”
With Laub playing a solid two games this weekend, saving a total of 83 shots on goal, this weekend’s third periods proved to be the period of strength for the Lions in both games as they visibly wanted the win more than their opponents, leaving their hearts on the ice to find their ways to exciting success.