The seniors of the Rowan ice hockey team (Division II) have played their final game in brown and gold sweaters.
Following a 5-1 loss to the Ohio University Bobcats on Saturday, Feb. 27, in the American Collegiate Hockey Association Southeast Regionals, the 2015-16 campaign has ended for the Profs.
“It was pretty depressing,” head coach John Caulfield said. “You go into the locker room and look at the faces of guys who have to say goodbye to a game they’ve played since they were five years old. Nobody cares about the scoreboard then.”
After hopping out to a quick 1-0 lead from the stick of Samuel Meyer, the Profs allowed the Bobcats to rip off five unanswered goals.
Rowan did have senior Alekos Polis for the game. The team had originally thought his illness would keep him sidelined, however he was “nowhere near 100 percent.” The mere presence of the team’s leading scorer in the lineup was not enough to lift the Profs to victory.
The brown and gold were also hamstrung by a familiar foe in their regionals matchup: themselves. They racked up 16 penalty minutes, and though they didn’t let up a goal on the penalty kill, it hampered their offensive output.
“We have to reduce penalty minutes dramatically [next season]. We spend too much time on the penalty kill,” Caulfield said. “The best PK is not having to use your PK.”
Caulfield also mentioned that during the coaching staff’s “postmortem” of the season, they will explore line combination ideas and look to find a way to help their team keep its composure in close contests.
“We need to learn to be calm,” Caulfield said. “In tight games we start to feel pressure. We have to better manage that next season.”
The nervousness was to be expected when considering the youth of this year’s roster. It’s certainly understandable to see jitters exposed when a team has 10 underclassmen seeing minutes.
Still, Caulfield was able to guide his young team to the second seed in the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey North Division, and earned the seventh seed in the Southeast Region of the ACHA.
“Our season was great,” Caulfield said. “I like the group we have returning. I can see the growth they’ve had in the short time they’ve been here.”
The head coach referenced that many of his players have only been at Rowan momentarily. He has mentioned in the past that this was considered to be a bit of a rebuilding year. The number of underclassmen expected to hit the ice next year will be even higher than this past season.
“There will probably be 13 guys with one season or less under them,” Caulfield said. “That’s young.”
He was not able to mention any names of newcomers, but Caulfield said that he has his eye on a few players who should be able to make contributions as soon as next season.
Immediate impact from any newcomers will be needed; three of the top five scorers Rowan had this season were seniors, and some of their key defensemen will be gone due to graduating.
Caulfield is the commander of the Profs’ current rebuild and he is committed to it. He proved this season that despite having an inexperienced team, he’s able to avoid the long droughts that are usually associated with rebuilds, and is plenty capable of extracting success from a green team.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Caulfield said of the future.
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