The University of Rhode Island men’s ice hockey team has once again had a very successful year, qualifying for the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Tournament for the third consecutive season.
The team is ranked No. 12 and currently boasts a record of 30-8-2. Â They have 62 points entering the tournament, good for the third-most in the ACHA behind only top-seeded Arizona State and No. 8 Adrian College.
Leading the team in goals is freshman Ray Boudiette, who has 19 goals and 19 assists for a total of 38 points. Â Six of his goals have been scored on power play opportunities and he has just six penalty minutes this season. Â Boudiette was named the conference’s Rookie of the Year and will need to continue his high level of production into the tournament.
Juniors Robbie Buehrer and Mark Luciano and senior A.J. Chua have been a continuous source of goals for the Rams. Â Buehrer and Luciano have 17 goals each with Luciano providing one shorthanded goal and five power-play goals and Buehrer notching three game-winners during the season.
Chua has scored 16, including six game-winners, one shorthanded goal, and four power play goals. Â Each of these players must continue their strong performance, especially against elite defensive teams like Stony Brook, if the Rams are going to win their second national championship, and their first since 2005-06.
Chua stated that the team’s main focus while preparing for the tournament has been “just keeping practices up-tempo since we’re playing at a national level with the top twenty teams in the country. Â We want to make sure everything is fast-paced and crisp and complete during practice.”
Head coach Joe Augustine was selected as the Eastern States Collegiate Hockey League’s Coach of the Year and many Rhode Island players were recognized by the ESCHL for their performance this season.
“Our overall aim is to try to score goals,” Augustine said. Â “We haven’t been scoring goals. Â We got knocked out of the [conference] tournament by Delaware and in our last three games against Delaware, we only scored a goal apiece. Â We’ve got to score goals to win games.”
Senior goaltender Andrew Sherman was named the ESCHL’s Most Valuable Player. Â He has 959 saves this season, giving him a save percentage of .937 and a goals-against average of 1.98, placing him eleventh in the ACHA. Â Sophomore Caleb Neal has also had a great year in goal for the Rams and has a save percentage of .916. Â This tandem will face a difficult challenge against the high-scoring Seawolves and will need to be at the top of their game should the Rams meet top-scoring Arizona State or Central Oklahoma, tied with Stony Brook for second in goals, later in the tournament.
Sherman, Chua and captain John Del Padre, were named to the ESCHL’s First Team All-League. Â Luciano and sophomore Billy D’Amore were named to the Second team, with Luciano also making the All-Defensive Team. Â Making the All-Rookie Team were Boudiette and freshman Matt Armenti. Â Qualifying for the All-Academic Team were Sherman, Del Padre, junior Paul Centauro, junior Brian Gara and sophomore Erik Pelletier.
The team will face a tough No. 5 Stony Brook in their first game of the tournament on Saturday. The Seawolves are 30-5 and have top-five scorer Vincent Lopes and goalie Derek Willms who owns the ACHA’s second-highest save percentage and goals against average, with 481 saves, a .951 save percentage, and a 1.47 GAA.
“I think we just have to keep things simple,” junior Chris Porter. Â “They’re a good team. Â We just have to come out hard, chip pucks deep, keep it simple, and everything should be fine.”
Defense will be crucial against the high-scoring Seawolves, who are tied for second in scoring in the ACHA with 181 goals on the season. Â The Rams have won just one of the four meetings thus far but are confident that they can come away with the win when the two teams meet again on Saturday.
“The only changes we need to make are mental preparation changes,” Chua said. Â “We’ve shown that we can beat them and we’ve also shown that we can play in close games with them so we just need to come out faster and harder.”
“We’re looking at some at some minor adjustments but if we eliminate mistakes, especially early on, we’re right in the ballgame so I don’t think we have to make any major adjustments, just clean things up a little bit,” Augustine said about Saturday’s matchup.
If the Rams are able to defeat Stony Brook, they will likely face the No. 4 Robert Morris Eagles in the following game on Sunday. Â Other potential opponents the Rams could face should they advance further in the tournament include top-ranked Arizona State, No. 2 Central Oklahoma and No. 3 Minot State.
“As much as we talk about scoring goals, it’s about defense and keeping the puck out of your net,” Augustine said. “You’re in a one game series so you can surprise people but you’ve got to play well defensively and then the rest should take care of itself.”