The No. 11 University of Rhode Island men’s ice hockey team swept Drexel University at home in two games by final scores of 4-2 and 4-1 to finish the regular season with a record of 30-7 before the start of the postseason.
For its first contest Friday night, URI dominated the shot-on-goal differential with a score of 48 to Drexel’s 19. The Rams scored three of their four goals in the back half of the first with junior Christopher Porter’s shot sneaking between the creases thanks to an assist from junior Robbie Buehrer and senior A.J. Chua.
Chua would score a goal of his own later in the period, assisted by Porter and Buehrer once again. Sophomore Dillon Balsamo also tallied in the first and co-assisted senior Cameron Schneck’s second-period score with freshman Brian Schehr.
Drexel’s only shots to get past senior goalkeeper Andrew Sherman were early in the second off the stick of senior William Bascou and sophomore Christopher Carroll less than four minutes later. Despite the win, Rams head coach Joe Augustine said he was not happy with the allowed goals and the team’s lack of production in the third period.
“Sometimes when we get out to an early lead that quickly, it’s tough to handle because they start doing the math and think it’s going to be a cakewalk and obviously it wasn’t,” he said. “We can’t be doing that this time of year.”
Saturday’s contest was preceded by Senior Day in honor of Chua, Schneck, Sherman, John Del Padre and Ben Upham’s final games as students at Boss Arena. Upham was sidelined for the season because of injury.
The game was met with plenty of unfinished business as both teams were playing aggressively from the start. Neither could connect on power plays, though, with four chances for the Dragons and five for the Rams. There were just two penalties in the first matchup, both coming from Drexel.
To kick off scoring, junior Robbie Buehrer potted a goal on an assist from Del Padre. It was not until the third that URI was able to make its strongest impact with three scores, all from junior Brian Gara, to earn himself his first career hat trick.
Drexel’s lone goal came early in the third from freshman Jim Mikalic, assisted by sophomore Ryan Williams. Gara’s first came less than two minutes later on an assist from sophomore Billy D’Amore and the second connected at 10:03 with help from sophomore Ray Boudiette. Gara’s third snuck in with just two seconds left on an empty net.
“It was good,” Gara said. “It was my first career hat trick here and I had a bunch of chances yesterday when the puck just wasn’t finding the net, so it’s definitely good to get out of the slump I was in.”
The two wins put Rhode Island (62 points) in second place in the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s final Division I standings, only behind the Arizona State University with 63 points. With postseason hockey beginning this weekend, Coach Augustine said that he is looking for the defense to continue to step up as well as it has all season so the team can put together a successful playoff run.
The Rams will return to action this Saturday and Sunday in the Eastern States Collegiate Hockey League’s playoffs at Rutgers University. The team has a bye for the first day of games on Friday.