By Michael Battista
The College’s club ice hockey team entered the Colonial States College Hockey Conference playoffs as a fourth seed and left as the conference’s first ever two-time champion with a 14-5 win over second seed University of Scranton, on Sunday, Feb. 18 in the conference final. The team continued its victory streak after advancing past West Chester University, 4-1, in the quarterfinals on Friday, Feb. 16, and overcame the University of Pennsylvania in an overtime thriller, 7-6, on Saturday, Feb. 17.
With the win, the Lions advance to the American Collegiate Hockey Association Southeast Regional tournament as the 12th seed. The team plays against ninth-seeded University of Maryland on Friday, Feb. 23 at Liberty University in Lynchburg,Virginia and is currently taking donations, which have already surpassed $1000, on its Facebook page to help fund the trip.
“It means a lot,” said head coach Andrew Ducko. “This year, I think the guys really bought in and worked hard… We had to face a lot of adversity with injuries and there was points in the season where we were three or four games below .500 and we weren’t even thinking of the championship. So it was really cool to have everyone come together.”
Seven Lions sank pucks past Scranton’s goalie, with two players, junior forward Peter Hansinger and freshman forward Daniel Martin, earning hat tricks. The Lions got on the board five minutes into the game thanks to a goal from sophomore defender Marc Tietjen, which was soon followed up by goals from sophomore forward Kris Hastings, Hansinger and senior forward Michael Lisciandro. Hansinger scored on a diving shot as the clock hit zero in the first period.
The team’s puck control and ability to convert chances gave them the lead. The team had 12 shots after 20 minutes, with one out of every three shots passing the goalie.
Despite two more goals in the second period from Martin and senior forward Brian Ely, Scranton took control after a goalie switch and an extended break following an injury on the ice. After a penalty, the College’s defense countered and scored four unanswered goals, with three of them coming within two minutes of play.
Following the spree of goals, the Lions pushed late into the second period. A two-on-one attack allowed Martin to snipe a shot to the top corner of the net.
With the score back to a three goal lead, 7-4, the team never allowed Scranton to come any closer than that. Martin says the comeback was somewhat typical of the sport.
“Hockey is a game of momentum,” Martin said. “They just seemed to grab the momentum. A couple of their good players grabbed a couple of nice shots… we’ll score a lot and then they’ll score a lot.”
Third period goals from Hansinger, Lisciandro, Martin, Tietjen and junior forward Ryan Anderson all combined to form the conference’s largest margin of victory in a championship game.
To reach the game against Scranton, the Lions began with a match against West Chester University on Friday.
Neither team was able to take control for a majority of the game, despite both sides having plenty of chances.
High intensity and speed aided the Lions in the first 10 minutes of play, but West Chester got the puck back and made multiple shots on goal.
Junior forward Ryan Anderson opened up scoring for the team by the 13th minute, but West Chester was never far behind.
West Chester punched in their own goal at the ninth minute after a series of shots deflected off the goalpost, power plays and defensive maneuvers.
With the game tied at one, West Chester failed to capitalize on multiple chances for the remainder of the game.
The momentum shifted immediately after the goal and the Lions not only regained control, but held the lead with a goal from freshman forward Matthew Lojewski.
In the net, freshman goalie Will Guttman saved all but one of the shots. Ducko was impressed by Guttman’s saves.
“(He) made a lot of saves he shouldn’t have,” Ducko said.
Guttman’s presence in the net helped provoke West Chester to aggressive play, which the Lions took advantage of as West Chester accumulated multiple penalties.
“We are more of a speed skill team,” Guttman said. “But that doesn’t mean we can just let them do whatever they want to us. If I see a player on their team push or crosscheck a player on our team then I have to do something about it.”
West Chester’s aggression reached its boiling point in the third period with the Lions leading, 3-1. In the midst of foul play in which an opponent made physical contact with a referee, the Lions added two more goals from Hansinger and Lisciandro.
A player was penalized following a call of too many men on the ice, and responded by charging and putting his hands on the referee before being pulled back. His outburst, which included banging his hands on his helmet while screaming, added him to the ejection list while the Lions added two more goals added from Hansinger and Lisciandro.
In the College’s next game against the University of Pennsylvania in the semifinals, the team was outmatched by its opponent for most of the game. The Lions’ best chances came early when they were on a power play or breakaway, while UPenn was quicker and more effective at pressuring throughout.
It took UPenn only five minutes to score in the first period, and did not rest until the second period was nearing conclusion. The Lions’ only goal came from sophomore forward Andrew Lem while the team was still trailing, 3-1.
“We came out sleeping,” Lisciandro said. “We got a lot of young guys. We came into the locker room saying… ‘play our position and everything will go right.’”
The Lions’ chances improved in the second period. Despite being down, the team’s defense picked up and carried the offense. The team seized more opportunities than UPenn, whose offense slowed down and could not convert chances into results like it had in the first 20 minutes.
The next two periods of regulation followed Martin’s momentum philosophy. Sophomore defender Kevin Guns, Hansinger and Lisciandro scored goals to tie the game, 3-3.
Tietjen and Martin then both netted goals to put the Lions in the lead with eight minutes to play in the third quarter.
But with three minutes to go, UPenn caught up and sent the game to overtime.
Lisciandro got a breakaway three minutes into overtime and sniped a shot that not only sent his team to the finals, but also sent every member of the squad onto the ice to celebrate with him and the fans against the rink’s glass.
“I kind of blacked out there,” Lisciandro said. “The puck just popped up to me, took it down and badda-bing, badda-boom — goal… I just looked up (and) shot it.”
Lisciandro added, while still hanging back from the postgame adrenaline, that his team fought hard for its victory.
“We played phenomenal the entire game honestly and we deserved it,” Lisciandro said. “It was a team effort and I think we played unbelievable.”