The remarkable turnaround season of the UD D3 men’s ice hockey team came to a heartbreaking end last night when Hen’s fell to #5 Rowan University 1-0 in the DVCHC National division quarter-finals at Ice Line in West Chester, Pa. The abrupt finish marked a bitter end to the season for the Hens, dashing the high hopes the team and its cast of senior stars had inspired.
Facing elimination, the Hens came out skating with a controlled intensity. â€œPlaying in the playoffs is a whole different style of game. The intensity is a lot higher than the regular season,â€ said captain KC Elliot â€™17.Â All three periods were filled will highlights from both benches, from silky sauce to bone crushing hits this game was one for the books. The games lone goal came to Rowan in the first on a debatable non-offside call from the linesman. The Hensâ€™s special-team play was key to their energy throughout the game. Delaware killed every PK that they faced during the game. â€œWe had multiple scoring chances every period,â€ KC said. â€œWe just werenâ€™t able to capitalize and find the back of the net.â€
The season-ending loss set a desolate tone in Henâ€™s locker room. Still, KC and the team spoke with pride about the seasonâ€™s accomplishments.
â€œThe whole senior group has been tremendous,â€ KC said. â€œWeâ€™ll miss Rubin and each one of them. They put our program on the map and got us not only in the regional picture but also set us in the right direction to one day make a run at nationals.â€
â€œWe appreciate the support during the four years that weâ€™ve been here, from the school, especially sticking with us over the bad times and goodâ€ team president Alex Rubin 16′ said. â€œI remember the first practice my freshman year when one of the kids pulled me to the side asked me if he should use a righty or lefty stick, if that doesn’t attest to how far we have come I don’t know what will. From the group of misfit toys to all the boys who I am glad to call my brothers, we have had such a great journey over my collegiate hockey career and I couldn’t be happier knowing the program is going to be left in such good hands.”
Senior forward Joey Tarantino 16′ said the coaching philosophy of first year coach Joe Garrett was a big factor in righting the ship.
â€œHis passion for the game is â€” bar none â€” one of the best Iâ€™ve ever seen. The guy loves the game, he loves being at the rink,â€ Tarantino 16′ said. â€œ(The players) feed off that energy. Weâ€™re hard-working and we play with a lot of passion, and that comes from the coaching.â€
â€œHe focuses on a lot of details. We focused all year on sticking together and sticking to the gameplan that coach had set in place,â€ Matt Bishop 17′ exclaimed. â€œOver time, we grew into that gameplan and it showed during the second half of the year.â€
Those details came together in many instances, especially in this final game. Even if the season could be considered success though, Garrett knows thereâ€™s more to come from this team and this program.
Though heâ€™s building a program, Garrett sees his job as much more than that. He cites the examples of John Henry Leech 16′ and Troy Klahre 17′ as proof of what the sportâ€™s biggest impact can be. Both are academic All-Americans this season, have jobs lined up after college, and have been named to the deans list along with eight other teammates.
â€œYou see the power of what Delaware can do, be it improving the players on the academic side of things or helping the players prepare for their future after graduation,â€ Garret said. â€œI think that makes it pretty special for us to be involved with.â€
With the end of the season upon the Hens, focus for the upcoming 2016-2017 has started. â€œItâ€™s a long summer thatâ€™s for sure. Iâ€™ll take two weeks off, play some pond hockey, toss some sauce, hang with the boys and then start making sure Iâ€™m ready for next season,â€™â€™ Shane Saladis 19′ said. â€œMy self along with the other rookie forwards had a great year offensively, with the effort that the boys are going to put into training this off season is going to give us the the edge that we will need to go deep into regionals next year.”