Last time: Less Than Golden (11/5/2010) // Weekend Observations: West Chester (11/7/2010)
For reasons you'll see shortly, it's probably not worth getting into too much detail concerning the end of West Chester's fall semester, which involved a 3-4-0 mark for the Golden Rams following those games with the Icers. While some credit is due for two of those three wins coming against ranked teams (No. 25 West Virginia and No. 16 Stony Brook), there was very little indication that the team was moving up in the ACHA world anytime soon. At the break, the WCU Quad gave a brief state of the team address.
The WCU Men's Ice Hockey Club is far from where they want to be. They are far from a winning record, far from a healthy lineup, and certainly far from contention. As dismal as this season has played out, the Rams are also far from giving up. After being thoroughly outplayed for weeks at a time, the Rams still show glimpses of the team they can be. The last few weekends have certainly had their share of bright spots. Coming off four straight losses, the Rams proved they could still skate with the best. The Rams record of late does not tell the whole story. Some luck, aggressive play, and timely heroics have put a little bit of fear back into the opponent's eyes.You know your season's going well when the school paper's beat writer gets into to the PR business and drops a "they're not giving up." Or the opposite of that.
I'll admit it, I laughed at that "little bit of fear back into the opponent's eyes" line at the end. Then I stopped laughing when I saw "West Chester 4, RHODE ISLAND 3" pop up on my Twitter feed sometime during the evening of January 8th. URI's a team I've talked up quite a bit here, so I'm impressed. WCU certainly got more out of their trip to The Boss (apologies, Bruce) than we did. Quad beat writer Kenny Ayres apparently started a blog about Golden Rams hockey sometime in December, and had this to say about the big win against the (other) Rams on it.
This game was evenly matched from the drop of the puck in the first period. It was physical, up and down, well played game by both teams...[it] was an absolute classic thriller, and the whole weekend showed the WCU squad that they can play with anyone in the country.By the way, if you clicked on that link, you might have noticed something.
|Blogger desperately needs more templates.|
Yep, Ayres is a Twitter account and a rink design graphic away from taking over my life, SWF-style. Hopefully that includes my student loans. Enjoy. (In all sincerity, I'm glad to see someone over there take it up - if every ACHA team had a Kenny Ayres, it would be a more enjoyable place, and most importantly, allow me to do more lazy cut-and-paste posts. Welcome to the club, please accept full-time linkage in a moderately obscure place on TYT as a token of my gratitude. But said gratitude doesn't mean I won't rip on you for rationality-optional reasons - see just before the parentheses for reference.)
So...just how does a team go from getting stomped 15-4 (over two games) by Rhode Island in mid-November to beating them in January? Well, that one's pretty easy. The team we'll see tonight and tomorrow will look a lot different than the one we - and URI - saw in November, as it includes eight - that's E-I-G-H-T - new players for the spring semester. Ayers took a look at them in two parts, here and here. It's a pretty impressive group, headlined by forward Chris Gentile, who was recruited by NCAA Division I Merrimack, and goaltender Randy Japchen, who has played in the USHL, even if it was only for 4:45 (still, he was good enough to be there).
The overhaul of the team has been drastic, to say the least. Of WCU's 20 goals so far this semester, half have been scored by newcomers Gentile, Chris Doyle, Harrison Welch and Bob MacLaughlin. Doyle and Welch have joined with Steve Meade to form the Golden Rams' best line right now. Japchen has started three of the four games and played well throughout, and Gordon Nicholson has steadied the defense corps.
All of this has led to a 3-1-0 start to the spring semester, with the Rhode Island split being followed up by a home sweep of ECHA doormats Drexel and Towson last Friday and Saturday. The Towson game was a blowout; the Drexel game was not, with the Golden Rams pulling it out 4-3 in overtime on the back of a Steven Jones winner. Ayres explained the close score between a pretty bad team and his WCU squad thusly.
The story of this game was Drexel netminder, Dan Pyne (as I was afraid of). The Golden Rams seemed a little full of themselves in the first period of the game, perhaps having a little bit of a hangover from their big victory in the previous weekend. They came out and completely dominated the rest of the game, though, firing 40 shots on Pyne in the second and third periods, as well as the overtime period. Pyne was outstanding in the Drexel net, and the Golden Rams had trouble solving him all night. The final shots were 50-28 in favor of WCU. After seeing Pyne live, there really are no questions as to how he made the WUG team.Pyne's a great goalie without a doubt. So as much as I think the "hot goalie" argument is overused (sometimes by me), I can accept it here.
So there you have it, 2010-2011 West Chester hockey, 2.0. However, despite the improved opponent, once again, wins are what's needed. Without them, whatever margin for error we may have is completely gone - and no, I have no idea if we'll get the appropriate poll credit for these games, win or lose. I'm definitely looking forward to breaking down pairwise rankings as an NCAA team, which is something I think I'd be better at than guessing at the whims of ACHA coaches.
Oh yeah, and - recurring theme alert - we'll have to do it without four key components of our team - don't forget Taylor Cera's shoulder separation in addition to the WUG departures.
I'm going to break pattern here and start with the opponent's work. My WCU doppelganger previewed the Icers for his blog. I always think it's interesting to get an unfiltered look at your team from the other side's perspective and he doesn't disappoint - dude did his homework and gave me a shout out, which gets you credit every single time from me. Tip of the hat.
Steve Penstone had a pretty prolific week over on VFTB, talking to Chris Cerutti, then Josh Hand, who probably wouldn't have minded a softer entrance into head coaching duties.
The Collegian, in their pregame, does a better job than me at contrasting the roster situations of both PSU and WCU.
One Final Note
No updates for Friday's game. I mean it this time, unlike last week when I said no updates, then ended up retweeting everything I saw about the games from the Robert Morris Twitter and from the Icers' Facebook page.
Why? Well, if you know me personally, you know I attend graduate school at the University of Akron. Akron has an ACHA D2 team, and I wanted to check them out once this year. Their three home games left are Friday, then opposite both games of the Rhode Island series. So I chose this one. It should have zero effect on Saturday updates or my Weekend Observations, because I actually live here. And I get in free because of this.
|That's right, I don't have to pay $3 to get in. Jealous?|
Some Akron YouTubeyness to close it out. I promise I won't bother you with Zippy stuff ever again unless they do something major, like wear matching uniforms.