The final weekend of the season was arguably one of the best for the Blue Hens. They needed to win three games in order to win their first ESCHL Playoff championship. Entering the weekend, UD knew they would not be attending the National Tournament, as they fell one spot away from contention: “This weekend was about pride and accomplishing something that this team has never done before” said Assistant Captain Marcello DeAngelis. Even though Nationals was out of the picture, the team still had an opportunity to win their final game and they battled hard for that victory, but ultimately came up short in overtime of the championship game.
The Blue Hens came into the ESCHL Playoffs as the third seed and they would start their weekend versus the sixth seed Rutgers University. The Ice Knights proved to be a difficult task as they battled back from a 4-1 deficit, but could not complete the comeback and fell to the Blue Hens 6-4.
The first period was full of scoring. Marcello DeAngelis scored twice to make the score 2-0. DeAngelis led the senior class with 22 points. Freshman Max Freeman was able to extend the lead to 3-0. Freeman scored 12 goals in the regular season and was tied for second on the team with 29 points.
After a Rutgers goal, the Blue Hens were quick to recover. Sophomore John Redgate scored to make the game 4-1. Redgate led the team with 30 points and has been coming up with big goals the entire season. At the end of the first period, Rutgers was able to score to make the game 4-2. The Blue Hens then saw their lead vanish in the second period, as Rutgers were able to score a couple goals to make it a tie 4-4 game.
The third period was all Blue Hens as they controlled the play. Not only were they able to outshoot Rutgers, they were also able to hold them to single digit shots. Late in the third, a bouncing puck brought RU goaltender Brian Lillian out of his net, but it was the quickness of John Redgate that prevailed as he knocked the puck by the RU net minder and put it in for the go ahead goal. Cole Zucker would add the empty netter and UD would move on to face rival Rhode Island in round 2.
URI proved to be a more formidable opponent as the pace of play picked up along with the hitting and nastiness on the ice. The history of the Delaware v Rhode Island rivalry goes back a long way which creates for very spirited games. The first period came to a close with no scoring; URI got their chances in the first, but UD’s sophomore goaltender Dylan Troiano was up to the task. Troiano’s play throughout the weekend was outstanding and according to many of his teammates he was arguably the Tournament MVP.
UD entered the second period shorthanded, as they had to kill off 4:45 of a major penalty handed out to Alex Guerere at the end of the first period. That Penalty Kill served as a turning point in the momentum of the game. During the kill, it was DeAngelis forcing URI goaltender Andrew Sherman to play the puck. Sherman shot it right into DeAngelis who then pulled the puck to his backhand and put it in the empty net. The shorthanded goal propelled the team to finish the kill and go to work even strength.
Rhode Island would answer back midway through the second with a shorthanded goal of their own but the resiliency of the Blue Hens prevented them from going behind. The young line of Freeman, Zucker, and Redgate continued their scoring ways as they created a turnover in the offensive zone. Zucker found Redgate who ripped a shot that squeezed through the pads of Sherman and gave Delaware the 2-1 lead after two periods.
In the third, UD came out flying. They attacked and played solid defense to secure the win, and Troiano stopped every shot he faced. The combination of team resiliency and excellent goaltending paved the way for UD to reach the Championship game.
The Stony Brook Seawolves awaited the Blue Hens in the Championship. Stony Brook is ranked #5 in the nation and was the #1 seed in the ESCHL tournament. They swept the season series versus Delaware, but needed extra time to win in this game.
The game had a little bit of everything, speed, physical play, and finesse. UD came out flying as they had 5 or 6 prime scoring opportunities and exited the first period with a 2-0 lead; “from the start of the game I knew the boys were ready to go, they were skating hard and executing the game plan” said Coach Rocky Romanella. The goals in the first came on the same shift from Seniors Matt Gumina and Ryan Pate; both scored big goals during the final games of the season.
The 2nd period swung the other direction as the Seawolves carried the play, outshooting the Blue Hens and tying the game at two. Late in the period, UD was unable to convert on a major power play and they headed into the locker room 2-2. The stage was set for a winner take all third period. It was Stony Brook who took the lead early in the third. A fourth goal after a UD timeout midway through the period could have been the back breaker, but Delaware’s season was not over just yet.
With under six minutes remaining in the third, sophomore John Redgate was about to break away from a Stony Brook defender and head in on their goaltender; however, Redgate was hooked so ferociously that it almost knocked him off of his feet, but his feet kept going. He did break away from the first hook, but it slowed his speed down and a second Stony Brook defender caught him from behind. Redgate would get hit hard from behind but as he was on the ice found a way to sneak the puck between Seawolves goalie Derek Wilms and bring the Blue Hens within 1. Redgate’s resiliency in that play proved to be the catalyst for the Delaware comeback.
With 1:45 remaining the third, UD still down 4-3, the referee called sophomore Vincent Zingarelli for a cross check. The questionable call would put Delaware down a man for the rest of the game. On the first faceoff of the penalty kill, Zucker would win the draw back to senior Gabe Colone who then wrapped the puck around the far boards, Redgate chipped the puck up the boards which sprung Zucker and Brancaccio up the ice. After entering the offensive zone, Zucker floated a pass to Redgate coming in late, Redgate fired a shot that went wide; but the puck bounced off the boards behind the net right onto the stick of Cole Zucker. He fired the puck through the back of the net and the game was tied at 4. The Blue Hen bench erupted as the improbable comeback was completed on a shorthanded goal.
Overtime was just as exciting as the rest of the game, the pace of play actually increased as both teams were working extremely hard to find the winner. Stony Brook and Delaware traded chances up and down the ice, and in the end it was a harmless dump to the corner that proved to be the back breaker for Delaware. With 4:53 left in the first overtime of the ESCHL Championship game, the 2014-2015 season came to a close for the University of Delaware hockey team.
Even though the Blue Hens did not win the final game, they have a lot to be proud of when looking back on the 14-15 season. We say our final goodbyes to the last remaining members of the 2012 National Championship team, we saw guys such as Ryan Pate, Matt Gumina, Noble Tucker, and Gabe Colona play leadership roles and come up with big plays when the team needed them, and we look forward to a young, healthy Delaware Hockey future. The team’s three leading goal scorers equaled two freshman and one sophomore and the team learned what it means to play with UD Pride. This final weekend was a pre-curser to the future of hockey at Delaware; it is a brand of hockey that is hardworking and resilient. The team can look forward to greater success and more hard earned wins in the coming seasons.
As always stayed tuned to www.udelhockey.com for updates throughout the offseason as we begin to prepare for the 2015-2016 season.
By: Tyler Fitzpatrick