Rowan DII ice hockey falls to eventual champion Penn State in MACH North Final

Members of the Rowan DII ice hockey team celebrate in a game earlier this season against Stevenson University. Photo Editor/Nicole Mingo

The Division II Rowan ice hockey team arrived at the Virtua Flyers Skate Zone in Pennsauken, New Jersey for the 2018 Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey (MACH) Tournament on Friday.

As the #3 seed in the MACH North Bracket, the Profs were pitted up against their arch-rivals, Rider University, in the division semifinal.

For a team comprised of many new faces and young players, the first dip into postseason hockey did not faze the Profs.

Sam Meyer got the Profs on the board early with a power play goal just 2:19 into the game. Lewis Claps scored in the second period to make it 2-0. Bobby Penrod tacked on the empty net goal to give the Profs the 3-0 shutout win over the Broncs and move on.

Goaltender Justin Natiello stopped all 24 shots he faced and Rowan advanced to the MACH North Final on Saturday against the top-seeded Penn State Ice Lions.

Penn State is not only ranked #1 in the MACH North, nor are they just #1 in the region.

They are the #1 ranked team in the entire nation.

That is what the Profs were up against Saturday afternoon in a classic tale of David vs. Goliath, but they had no reason to be afraid. Rowan nearly knocked off Penn State in their two games during the regular season.

Lightning struck early for Rowan as Nick Ramos sniped a shot past PSU goalie William Holtforster just 3:21 into the contest. Penn State answered with a goal, then Peter Kaz unloaded a slap shot from the blue line for a goal to put the Profs back up.

The Ice Lions scored two in a row to take a 3-2 lead into the locker room.

Nineteen seconds into the second period, Ramos snuck a backhand shot through the five-hole of Holtforster for his second of the game and to tie the game back up at 3-3.

Then, things got a tad out of hand.

Penn State quickly tacked on four unanswered goals to take a 7-3 lead. Just when it seemed like the young Rowan squad was about to pack it in and go home, they dug down for one last fight.

Right before the end of the middle period, Meyer received a beautiful feed from Tucker Simmons for a goal which was followed up with a quick goal by Penrod, his second of the game, to make it 7-5 at the end of the period.

At the start of the third, Anthony Steffe was able to wrap around the net with the puck and sneak it through for a goal.

The atmosphere in the Flyers Skate Zone was palpable. The fans, the bench, the players began to feel that an upset was on the horizon.

Unfortunately, the sixth goal would be the last the Profs would score on this afternoon, as Penn State would score three more goals to win the MACH North title, 10-6, and move onto the MACH Championship in a rematch from last year with Liberty University.

Coach John Caulfield could only describe the contest as “fun.”

“It was fun hockey,” Caulfield said. “We had them for a bit but it was just a downright fun game.”

In last year’s MACH Final, Liberty defeated Penn State in overtime. This year’s championship game went to extra time again.

Despite Liberty riding the stellar play of goalie Blake Scott the entire tournament, Ambrose Aquadro of the Ice Lions put home a rebound shot to send the Ice Lions into a celebratory frenzy as they had become the 2017-18 MACH Champions.

For Rowan, the loss in the MACH Tournament does not spell the end of their season, as the DII American Collegiate Hockey Association Regionals take place next weekend. Rowan, which competes in the Southeast Region, will travel to Liberty University, the host site, to take on Miami University of Ohio on Saturday at 9 p.m.

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