Stepping onto the ice for the first game of the season, Rowan forward Alec Nicolai looked to start his senior campaign by making a statement.
His hat trick was heard loud and clear.
The Rowan Division II ice hockey team, who are celebrating their 40th season, took down The College of New Jersey Lions in the season opener, 6-4, at home in the Hollydell Ice Rink in Sewell on Saturday, Sept. 24.
“We came out a little rusty,” Nicolai said. “But we are just glad that we got the first win out of the way on opening night.”
The Profs came out aggressive from the start, crushing multiple Lions players against the boards and in open ice areas, wearing down TCNJ physically early on.
The physicality created an opportunity for senior right winger Mike Macgahey to put home the first goal of the 2016-17 season for the Profs.
Some penalty trouble plagued Rowan late in the first period, however, which allowed the Lions to score three quick goals and take a 3-1 lead into the first intermission.
“The penalties were my fault,” head coach John Caulfield said. “I made the decision to put out three forwards and a defenseman on the penalty kill and it came back to haunt us. I should’ve been more conservative but it was the first game so I wanted to see what we could do aggressively.”
Caulfield’s pep talk after the first period ignited the Profs as they came back to tie the game at 3-3 on goals by sophomore Conrad Quinn and Nicolai, who scored on a 5-on-3 power play. The score remained even heading into the 3rd period.
In the final period, junior center Brandon Caccavale put the Profs in front before TCNJ defenseman Marc Tietjen answered to knot things up at 4-4.
With just minutes remaining in regulation, Nicolai was able to put the puck in the net to hand the brown and gold a lead that this time they wouldn’t relinquish. He capped off the night with an empty net goal that gave him the hat trick and the Profs the victory.
“It felt good,” Nicolai said. “I had a rough year last year so it was nice to be able to bounce back like that and get the hat trick.”
“Alec is a leader on this team for a reason,” Caulfield said. “He’s a super skilled player. He’s vocal in the locker room, and he gets the job done no matter what we put him out there for.”
When asked if he was disappointed when he saw that none of the fans threw their hats onto the ice for his big moment, Nicolai only had one thing to say.
“It was kind of expected,” Nicolai said. “Not many of the people in the crowd were wearing hats, but it still felt good.”
The Profs next game will be at home on Friday, Sept. 30 at 8:15 p.m. as they take on Millersville University.
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