By Michael Battista
After one final practice at Loucks Ice Center and an overnight six hour bus trip, the College’s club ice hockey team made its first appearance in the American Collegiate Hockey Association Southeast Regional tournament on Friday, Feb. 23. The team ultimately fell to the University of Maryland, 6-1, at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.
The team came into the tournament as the 12th seed while Maryland, representing the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey Association, was seeded ninth.
The Lions’ early mishaps lead to four penalties in the first period alone, which resulted in the team playing a man down for a little less than half of the first period.
Head coach Andrew Ducko says he believes both teams were called for penalties often, especially in the first period.
“The officials were calling a lot of penalties on both teams even though it didn’t seem to be a chippy game,” Ducko said. “Maryland’s top line is very strong so their power plays were tough for us to overcome.”
The College’s early struggles were similar to their game against the University of Pennsylvania in the Colonial State College Hockey Conference playoff semifinals, in which forwards sophomore Andrew Lem and senior Michael Lisciandro took advantage of the University of Pennsylvania’s mistakes to allow for a comeback.
But this time, the Lions could not get the puck out of their zone or pick off their opponents’ mistakes.
With the team down, 2-0, in the middle of the second period, the Lions had a chance to cut into the deficit when their offense outnumbered Maryland in their zone off a fast break. Junior forward Pete Hansinger got the puck into the net. However, the puck came in after a Lions player knocked the net off its mooring, causing the official to declare the play dead before the puck crossed the line.
“Once our goal was disallowed which would have made it 2-1, we quickly went down by 3 (and) we became a bit frustrated,” Ducko said. “This was where the game got away from us.”
For the first period and half of the second, freshman goalkeeper Will Guttman was constantly under pressure from Maryland’s offense. After three goals in the second period, the team pulled Guttman for junior goalkeeper Albert Gregorio, who let in an additional two goals before the end of the period.
In the third period, the team shut down Maryland’s offense and put more pressure on their opponents’ defensive lines. After multiple shots, chaos at Maryland’s net and a power play, the Lions earned their sole goal of the game with ten minutes to go off the stick of freshman forward Matthew Lojewski.
Despite being down, Ducko told his team to seize every opportunity and play hard to the very end.
“Going into the third down by six, we focused on playing with class and making sure that we played the way that made us successful all season,” Ducko said. “We treat every period as a new game and even though we lost the game, I was happy that they won the third. Winning the third showed that our kids could continue to compete and never give up.
Ducko also emphasized to his players the importance of playing with class despite the hardship.
“I told the team that as long as they treated the opponents, teammates, officials and game with respect while giving their very best, I would be proud of them no matter what the outcome,” Ducko said.
The Lions end their season with a record of 17-14-2 and a strong core of players who will be returning for next season.
Ducko says he believes a lot can be attributed to the team’s success this year and he values every victory and loss they all had together.
“I would say that we overachieved, overcame adversity, came together and created positive lifetime memories,” Ducko said. “With the graduation of only three seniors, I see a bright future for the team.”