The Blue Hens welcomed division rival, Rhode Island, this past weekend for a two game series. The game was as physically demanding as expected between two teams with a stored history. The defensive weekend ended up being a split, with the Blue Hens prevailing on Saturday.
In the Friday night game the Blue Hens came out strong in the first period. They were able to play a physical game against their rivals while dominating puck possession. They managed to draw a couple power plays, but failed to capitalize, a trend they have unfortunately dealt with in the second half of the season.
Despite the missed opportunities, Captain Steve Braun liked how the team came out in the first period. Braun commented on his teams play saying, “We [Blue Hen] had it in the first period. Guys were flying around and making big hits, but we need to be able to do this for a full 60 minutes”.
The game would remain close, but it was eventually Rhode Island who got the lone goal in the second period. Billy D’Amore fired a shot from the blue line on the power play. Blue Hen Sophomore goalie, Dylan Troiano, was able to make the initial save, but Mark Luciano buried the rebound and scored his 16th goal of the season to put Rhode Island up 1-0 going into the second intermission.
The Blue Hens continued to get power play opportunities in the third, but yet again failed to convert. “Right now we’ve been in a bit of a slump, nobody seems to be able to put the puck in the back of the net,” said Braun. “We’re going to get out of it, but going through it is tough. We have the puck control and the shots but we are still looking for that finisher.” Coach Rocky Romanella also said that the team needs someone to step up and finish the goals off.
The Blue Hens have plenty of candidates for this role. Freshman Max Freeman came close a few times to getting his 10th goal of the season. Freshman Cole Zucker leads the team with 14 goals and has proven he can be counted on to put the puck in the net. Sophomore Vinny Zingarelli has been playing solid hockey and has already scored 8 goals this season. Sophomore John Redgate could be considered the more experienced of the top scorers the Blue Hens have, considering the fact that he played on the first line last year as well as this year.
The Hens would eventually find the back of the net on Saturday night as they prevailed 2-1 in an emotional, character building win.
In the first period on a 4 on 4 situation, Alex Guerrere took advantage of all the open ice, and fired a cannon from the blue line. The shot beat Rhode Island goalie, Andrew Sherman, for the Blue Hens first goal of the weekend.
Guerrere has impressed Coach Romanella as of late. The big defenseman was playing forward on one of the power play lines and seeing plenty of minutes on the penalty kill. He was also a steady presence on the blue line, breaking up a few Rhode Island rushes with timely checks.
After a scoreless second period, Rhode Island broke through in the third period. Brian Schehr scored his 5th goal of the season for the Rams to tie the game at 1-1.
This did not faze the Blue Hens. They were able to play strong in their own zone and endure the Rhode Island attack while waiting for their chance to counter attack.
That chance came off a Rhode Island turnover in center ice. The Blue Hens managed to get a 3 on 1 rush in Rhode Island’s zone. Senior Ryan Pate found a wide open Guerrere who scored his second goal of the game to win it for the Blue Hens 2-1.
Guerrere was the finisher for the Blue Hens this weekend, but Coach Rocky pointed out that anyone could be the finisher the Blue Hens need moving forward. The team had been doing everything else right, but Guerrere was able to provide that missing piece of the puzzle.
The Blue Hens have only three more regular season games before they play in the ESCHL playoffs. All three of those games are against ESCHL opponents.