Complacency is something all sports teams work to avoid, but at times, it’s something that seeps into the locker room, particularly after nabbing a playoff berth.
That would not be the case for the Rowan men’s ice hockey team, though.
After clinching a spot in the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey playoffs at the end of November, the team took to the ice with passion, and rattled off two straight victories to snap a two-game slide. Rowan started off with a 6-3 win over the University of Maryland, then topped off the weekend by defeating University of Maryland-Baltimore County 2-1.
“We had a good week of practice,” head coach John Caulfield said. “We made a few tweaks defensively, and worked a bit on the power play.”
Special teams has become a focal point for Caulfield and the Profs this year, as they’ve struggled mightily to stay out of the box, but have also cashed in on a wealth of power play opportunities.
Rowan tallied three power play goals against the University of Maryland en route to a lopsided win.
One of the beneficiaries of the surplus of power play minutes was freshman forward Connor MacEwen, who scored one of his two goals on the man advantage.
“Connor had a great game against Maryland,” Caulfield said.
On the flip side of the power play unit is the penalty-kill unit, which had the difficult task of killing off just under 30 minutes of penalties over the weekend. Rowan’s penalty-kill unit has now been on the ice for just about a quarter of the season’s total minutes.
“The most important thing we need to do is stay out of the box,” Caulfield said.
The Profs focus on two keys to their game each week: keeping bodies out of the penalty box, and putting together a strong, four-line game.
Executing both of those tasks will be crucial in order to tackle their two upcoming opponents—Wagner College and the defending national champion, New York University.
Rowan and Wagner saw each other earlier in the season in what was a decisive, 6-2 road victory for the Profs. The brown and gold again struggled to keep themselves out of the penalty box in that contest, registering six penalties in the first period alone.
Caulfield knows his team cannot repeat those antics.
“Wagner has a good power play, so staying out of penalty trouble will be key,” Caulfield said. “They also bring a more physical element than some teams, so if we can use our speed early and get the pace up, the plan is to wear them out by using four lines.”
At this juncture of the season, NYU is not playing like the team that won the national championship a year ago. The Violets currently hold a 9-7 record, and have just four wins in their last eight contests. Regardless of their current play, NYU is a capable, veteran squad.
As always, the Profs have to excel in one specific area this weekend—avoiding excessive amounts of penalty minutes.
“If we can stay out of the box, we can play with anyone,” Caulfield said.
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