Photo by Margo Gagnon |CIGAR|
The Rhode Island men’s hockey team finished their season last Friday with a 2-1 loss to New York University in game one of the ESCHL playoffs. Rhode Island was outshot for most of the game and after being down 2-0 early in the third period, freshman Patrick Creamer scored Rhode Island’s only goal of the game while on the power play.
“We got off to a very poor start,” Head Coach Joe Augustine said. “We got outshot like 17-5 in the first period. We were really, really flat. I thought we played much better the next two periods but we didn’t finish.”
Rhode Island played NYU four other times earlier in the year, with the Rams winning three of the four games played. The two teams faced each other most recently on Feb. 3, where Rhode Island won 3-2.
“Every game we played with them were all tight games and a few of them could’ve gone either way,” Augustine said. “We didn’t really take advantage of our opportunities when we had them.”
The Rams did get one player back from injury for the final game of the year. Junior Nate Bastian, who has been out since late October with issues related to a concussion, played against NYU on Friday filling in for junior Sandy Gray, who had been struggling as of late.
NYU got on the board first in the game, scoring two quick goals in the second period. Despite the goal from Creamer, Rhode Island would be unable to come back, something that the team has struggled with all season.
“That’s something that is kind of a mental thing and I think that really comes with having confidence when you win a few of those game,” Augustine said. “I think the second half of the year we were much better playing from behind than we were in the first semester. First semester we really got down on ourselves. The second semester they did a way better job with that and that’s just gaining a little confidence. Sometimes you shoot and they don’t go in, that’s the nature of the beast.”
Although the team struggled and were forced to play from behind they would finish the season 23-13-2 and ranked No. 21 in the nation. Early on in the season the team was struck with the injury bug losing several players in a short time frame where the team dropped six games in a row.
“A lot of teams have injuries, that’s no excuse,” Augustine said. “We had three or four really bad losses and the computer rankings, those come back and they follow you all year, and that has nothing to do with injuries. That’s just strictly performance and being ready to play. I have to do a better job of preparing our guys to play. To me it has nothing to do with injuries. We have 20 guys on the roster that have to be ready to play. You don’t want to see anybody hurt, but I’m sure there’s a lot of teams dealing with injuries.”
With many of the regular players out with injuries, many freshman got their chance to play over the course of the season. By the end of the year ten freshmen made their Rhode Island debut including Creamer, who had 25 points in 28 games played, and goalies Daniel DaSilva and Anthony Lancellotti, who each earned a shutout this season.
“We have a really good freshman class,” Augustine said. “We have some really, really young guys and I think they have a lot of potential. That’s one of the reasons we kept them and I think that’s a good building block.”
The Rams will be losing three seniors in Max St. Sauveur, Mike Pesola and Mark Matson, who all played an important role with the team both on and off the ice.
“It’s always tough to replace people, not just strictly on the ice, but in the locker room,” Augustine said. “Mike Pesola, Max (St. Sauveur) and Mark Matson were guys who’ve been with our program. They understand what we’re doing, they understand what we’re trying to get done and so I think it’s tougher replacing people in the room and really on the ice at times because they pretty much have to learn the way we run things and what our culture is and so forth.”
Looking forward to next season, Augustine and the team are looking to improve on starting games off stronger and scoring more often. They want to avoid losses like this year where they are unable to come from behind and find ways to win games.
“Every single game you play is important no matter who they are, where they’re ranked, or whatever because the computer rankings, that’s what they based it on,” Augustine said. “You got to be ready to play. We have to do a better job there and then we gotta get some goal scoring. I think that we can do a better job there and goal scoring is tough to find, that’s what we’ve been working on.”
Looking at the roster for next season, one thing is clear. Rhode Island has a strong class of returning sophomores combined with the experience of the veteran players.
“I think we have a good base for building the program and every year is a new year,” Augustine said. “We’ll see what we have in front of us come September and we got to make a decision. Everybody’s got to earn their spot and earn their spots back and no one’s guaranteed anything.”