The final regular-season weekend for the Rowan ice hockey team (Division II) became one of point differential.
Rowan first headed to the University of Delaware, beating the Blue Hens by a convincing five goals. Then, the brown and gold headed up to William Paterson in North Jersey, where they walked into a Pioneer buzzsaw, and left after a six-goal shredding.
“We were happy with the end of UDel. We started sloppy, but ended with eight unanswered goals,” head coach John Caulfield said. “It’s always a better mood when you win, but the damage was done [against William Paterson]. Five goals isn’t an easy hole to dig out of.”
The Profs were able to overcome an early three-goal deficit at Delaware, partly because of a hat trick from Alekos Polis; Caufield went on to tag the senior as one of his regular season MVPs. Recently, Polis has been lighting the lamp at a feverish pace, scoring two or more goals in three of his last five games.
“When he’s going he’s setting the table for the team,” Caulfield said.
Fortunately for the 10th-year head coach, the leadership in his locker room runs even deeper than just Polis. After ending the season on a six-goal loss, a young team could be susceptible to a postseason meltdown, but with the wealth of seniors on the Rowan squad, it’s not a concern.
“The captains were saying “Short memories, boys” in the locker room,” Caulfield said. “I’m not worried. We’ve been through this before.”
Not only have the veterans been through the grind of the playoffs, but the team as a whole have already seen their first playoff opponent, rival Rider University, twice this season. It was Rowan proving victorious in both outings, though the first of the two, an early October contest, had to be decided by a shootout.
The Profs will meet the Broncs tomorrow in the opening round of the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey Playoff Tournament. Caulfield will not allow his team to overlook Rider because of the 2-0 record they hold on them.
The Broncs’ roster features four double-digit goal scorers on the season, and five players with at least 23 total points.
“They’ve got some scoring depth, and some big bodies. We’ll need to be aware in our D-zone,” Caulfield said. “Be diligent not to turn over pucks in dangerous areas, because they’ll pounce on those and come at us with scoring opportunities.”
The scoring opportunities were plentiful for the Broncs in the first bout as they were able to fire off an absurd 52 shots. But as has been the case for much of the 2015-16 campaign for the Profs, it was goalkeeper Cody Reilly who kept Rowan in the game.
“Reilly has been so strong in net,” Caulfield said. “Bailing us out when we needed it, and being steady the whole way.”
Reilly will be another one of the seniors tasked with providing the leadership, and on-ice production needed for a sustained playoff push.
Any way the Profs are looked at — whether it’s pessimistically as a team that ended the season being bludgeoned on the road, or optimistically as a team that won five of their last six — Caulfield reiterates one statement.
“Postseason is a new season,” he said.
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