The Rowan D-II ice hockey team faced a daunting task with three games this past weekend.
The Profs took on Villanova’s D-I team on Thursday night. Rowan nearly pulled off the upset on the road, but dropped the contest 2-1. Villanova scored 13 seconds into the game, but forward Nick Ramos tied it 1-1 at the end of the first.
Jack Skaggs put the Wildcats back out in front in the second period, as that was it for the scoring. The brown and gold skated just as fast as Villanova in a defensive contest. Despite the loss, Rowan came away with confidence that they pushed a D-I squad to their limit.
The Profs took that confidence into a rivalry game on the road with West Chester University on Friday night in which the team grabbed a 5-0 lead after the first period. Forward Anthony Dellerose had two goals in the period, eventually forcing the Golden Rams to pull their starting goaltender.
Rowan unloaded offensively, winning the lopsided contest 11-2. Defensemen Frank Christy and Kyle McGovern scored their first goals on the season while forward Sam Meyer finished with two goals on the night.
The Profs headed back to Hollydell for a Saturday night showdown with undefeated Penn State.
The Nittany Lions had a 2-1 lead after the first period, but shortly into the second, forward Bobby Penrod was able to gain control of a turnover and rip the puck past goalie William Holtforster to tie the game at two.
“My linemates did a great job of putting a lot of pressure on their defense,” Penrod said, who is tied for the team lead with 14 points this season. “We knew they were going to turn the puck over and when they did, I buried it.”
The game went back and forth from that point on as Christopher McDermott and Sam Meyer scored later in the contest to bring the game to within one, but the Nittany Lions were able to put up three more goals in-between Rowan’s scoring due to the speed of their top line that was able to turn two-on-two opportunities into odd man rushes all night. This was something Rowan goaltender Justin Natiello was ready for.
“We knew Penn State was going to be a fast team,” Natiello said, who has played every minute this season. “I try to see the play in my head as they come in and if that third guy gets up on the play, I’ll start to cheat a little bit to make sure I get over there if they decide to pass it to him.”
Penn State was able to withstand offensive pressure from the Profs in the final minute, a stint the Profs were able to do without pulling Natiello, which frustrated fans after the game.
Head coach John Caulfield put the decision into perspective for those who were questioning it.
“The way the computer rankings are done, we would have a better chance of being ranked higher in a one goal loss to Penn State than a two goal loss,” Caulfield said. “I thought we had enough jump on them at the end there that I didn’t think we needed to pull Justin.”
Despite coming out of the three game weekend with a 1-2 record, Rowan nearly beat a D-I team as well as the best team in their division, something they can take into Saturday’s game against Liberty University at home. Puck drops at 8:15 p.m.
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