By Julie Kayzerman
For the final time, nine seniors on the College’s ice hockey team skated on their home ice at the Louck’s ice center in Lawrenceville, N.J. for Senior Day on Sunday, Feb. 7.
And in a bittersweet moment, they left it all on the ice that had been home to countless victories and heartbreaks.
Although the No. 18 ranked Lions lost a hard-fought 6-3 match to No. 5 ranked Pennsylvania State University, their ability to stay with one of the top teams in the country was a huge confidence boost going into playoff season.
“To come out against a team of this caliber and perform the way we did, I’ll take that loss any day of the week,” senior captain Matt Martin said. “It just sets the tone for what we expect out of the guys.”
Penn State jumped out to an early lead in the first, but the College held them to 1-0 at the end of the period with huge shot blocking from senior forwards Salvatore DiBrita and Evan Herrington and big hits from senior defender Steven Czachor.
About 10 minutes into the second period, the Lions took advantage of a power play opportunity with a rocket from Martin into the Penn State net that came off an assist from junior forward Kevin Collins to tie up the game.
With 3:21 left in the third, Penn State took the lead again, but the Lions stayed resilient, bouncing back with a DiBrita goal off a Collins assist, with just 36.2 before the period’s end.
“I think we’re finding our stride at the right time,” co-captain DiBrita said. “We’re getting a lot of depth in scoring, which is something that we’ve really lacked in the past.”
While Penn State jumped on a couple of mental lapses by the College to expand their lead to 6-2, junior forward Mike Lisciandro gave the Lions one last point on the scoreboard with a sweet goal off an assist from sophomore defender Dylan McMurrer. Senior goalie David Laub kept the Lions in the game with a stellar performance, sporting 31 saves during probably one of his best games of the season.
“We didn’t get the result we wanted, but the effort we showed, I think it was definitely what we were looking for,” DiBrita said.
Coach Andrew Ducko noted that if his team plays the way they did on Sunday night, they’ll be the top team come playoffs time.
As the team celebrated Senior Day for Martin, DiBrita, Czachor, Herrington, Laub, forward Tyler Viducic, goalie Fred McQuade and defensemen Alex Moskal and Gary L’Heureux, the rookie Lions consider themselves lucky to have experienced this season with them.
“The seniors have treated us with a lot of respect,” freshman goalie Patrick Tso said. “They taught us how to act on and off the ice. They accepted us from day one and it won’t be the same without them.”
Freshman forward Will Dimock jumped right into a vital role with the Lions’ top line upon his arrival, playing alongside DiBrita and Collins, with Martin and freshman Matt Liebers behind on defense.
“The seniors did a great job of always keeping the mood light in the locker room and during practice,” Dimock said. “Whether it was Herrington with his superb one liners, Martin quoting movies, Moskal being a goof, Sal with his teddy bear personality or Gary being off in the clouds, when it came time to focus on the real reason we all still pay to play the game at obscure times of the night, they all made sure the team was at its best.”
Ducko added that while this season was his first with the team, he feels lucky to have been given the opportunity to coach the senior players before they graduated.
But for Dimock and the other freshmen, they will be sorely missed.
“Our vocal leaders were the captains Matt and Sal,” Dimock said. “In addition to them, though, we had quiet leaders like Laub, Czachor, Tyler and Freddy. Laub always came to play against our toughest opponents. Czachor has a really calm demeanor that was infectious in the locker room and Tyler and Freddy each have the best attitudes that someone can have.”
But Senior Day wasn’t just about the players. In a spontaneous act of class after the final buzzer Ducko and the Lions brought Career & Community Studies alumni Hunter DeLauretis ’13 onto the ice for a victory lap led by DiBrita. DeLauretis has followed the Lions for four years, coming to every single home game and supporting the team as their biggest fan and the Lions couldn’t say goodbye to the rink without recognizing his commitment to the team.
“Being at a hockey rink is always my favorite place to be because I love the sport of hockey so much and I used to play sled hockey,” DeLauretis said. “I hope someday I’ll be able to work in the hockey world.”
The College finishes its regular season next week with two away games against Monmouth and Seton Hall universities before entering the CSCHC Playoffs the following weekend. The Lions are currently second in league behind Princeton University and have their eyes set on going on all the way.
“It was a hell of a run,” DiBrita said. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet that we’re done with the regular season playing here. Like every team, we’ve had our highs and lows, winning huge games here, skating for practice late on Monday nights… We have a lot of memories here. I for one definitely wouldn’t trade those hours for anything else. I’d like to stay with these guys.”