It isn’t necessarily the top-ranked team that causes the most anxiety for opposing coaches come playoff time, it’s the team that rides into the postseason in fifth gear after steamrolling the final stretch of their regular season.
With their three-game winning streak and strong performance last weekend, the Rowan DII ice hockey team are positioning themselves to be a dangerous bunch.
“I’m happy with the way we are executing right now,” head coach John Caulfield said.
The Profs are slotted as the three-seed of the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey playoff rankings with one game left to play in the regular season.
In their last two games against West Chester and Virginia Tech, the brown and gold scored nine goals while only allowing one – and that goal came on a penalty kill with 46 seconds left in regulation after playing nearly 120 consecutive minutes of shutout hockey.
Rowan had a bit of a redemption game with West Chester in the weekend’s opener. The two met back in November in a game that saw the Profs let a 2-0 third period lead dwindle down into an overtime competition.
This game was much different.
The Profs dominated the game from the drop, and tuned up the Golden Rams in a 6-0 beatdown behind the shutout performance of their backup goalie Justin Natiello, and a hat trick from their leading scorer Alec Nicolai.
“They were really having a tough time with our speed and gave us a lot of room through the neutral zone,” Caulfield said. “[Natiello] played great. He had struggled last meeting versus West Chester. What better better redemption than a shutout in their barn?”
After the wallop at West Chester, the Profs headed home for a matchup with a struggling Virginia Tech team. Unlike the contest with West Chester, the Profs weren’t able to generate their powerful four-line attack against the Hokies. It wasn’t because their offense wasn’t working, though, it was because the offense could barely stay on the ice. The Profs racked up 10 penalties that continuously killed the flow of their offensive attack.
“It was crazy. Two [penalties] on Friday, then 10 the next day,” Caulfield said. “We kept it together on the bench, stayed calm and focused on killing the penalty. The boys were committed to the penalty kill.”
Of the 10 penalties the Profs committed, half of them were roughing calls. Caulfield called the majority of the roughing calls “retaliation penalties.” Due to the Hokies struggling, they became chippy, but, as always, it’s the response to the action that draws the whistle.
Despite playing one-third of the game a man down, Rowan was able to contain Virginia Tech and grab a comfortable 3-1 win.
Now, the Profs have one matchup with Millersville University separating them from the playoffs. The Profs and the Marauders met back in late September in a game that the Profs won handily by a seven goal margin.
The following weekend starts the MACH playoffs, in which Rowan plays their rival, Rider University, in the opening round on Feb. 17.
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