It was a physically tough weekend of game play for the Lions ice hockey team on their home ice, but perhaps even more so, it was emotionally difficult — and the emotions won’t stop there.
Despite losing two competitive games by the close scores of 4-3 against both Millersville University and Princeton University in the same week, the Lions know they must look forward onto what really matters now: the playoffs.
However, before getting into the playoff mindset, it was an emotional experience on their home ice at the Loucks Ice Center this past weekend. The Lions celebrated senior night, marking the last home games of the senior players’ college hockey careers.
“Playing my last home game feels like a chapter closing in my life,” senior forward John Czarnik said. “A lot of time has been spent at our home rink over the years and knowing it’s the last game ever wearing TCNJ colors is tough to accept.”
As several of the seniors have been playing together under the tutelage of head coach Joseph Cucci, they’ve certainly adopted a clear team chemistry on and off the ice throughout the years.
Winning the championship in 2012, the upperclassmen are hoping to repeat it for their last year. But regardless of the outcome of next week’s playoffs, the seniors have certainly set an influential tone on the ice from the strategic game play of forward Anthony Santisi, to the leadership of defenseman Scott Rothlisberger, to the determination of seniors forward Kush Patel and former line-mate forward Nick Lisciandro alongside the aggressive playing of forward Jed Plester, forward Zach Zuczek and Czarnik.
Regardless of stats, though, these seven players certainly left their hearts on their home ice at the Loucks Center and their legacy will live on through the underclassmen as they follow in the seniors’ footsteps.
“It’s a crazy feeling, knowing that you have one week of hockey left,” Czarnik said. “It’s going to be emotional, considering the fact that it’s all over after this, but there’s no better way to end your career than going out as a champion.”
And go out as champions is exactly what the Lions plan to do next week during the upcoming playoffs.
“To be successful in the playoffs, we have to play at a higher level and intensity and we know we are capable of it,” Czarnik said. “We have to play very strong defensively as a unit, which was the main reason we won the championship two years ago. Everyone knows their role on the team, and if we execute the way we know how, we will be very successful in the playoffs.”
The Lions will take on their first playoff game next weekend at Grundy Arena on Friday, Feb. 14.