The University of Rhode Island men’s club hockey team improved their overall record against the Delaware Blue Hens to 52-35-11 with a 5-2 win on Friday and a 5-1 win on Saturday.
Boss Ice Arena reopened Nov. 6 following emergency repairs to the ice compressors, and this weekend’s action saw the team return to their home rink for the first time.
Friday night’s contest saw Delaware strike first after a 3 vs. 1 opportunity for the Blue Hens at 12:52 in the first period. URI’s netminder, third-year Callum Burgess, made the initial stop but gave up a rebound that Delaware’s Trevor Farley put in the back of the net.
Delaware kept the pressure in the following minutes, forcing Burgess to make a point-blank glove save that kept the score 1-0.
Later in the period, URI second-year Ethan Cordeiro evened the score by picking up a loose puck out in front of the net and burying it with 4:31 left.
The Rams came out with momentum to start period two, receiving a fortunate bounce that would lead to the go-ahead goal. A wide shot deflected off of the end-boards and landed in front, where second-year Jake MacKinnon picked up the tally at 16:10.
URI’s next goal came on the powerplay after a Delaware slashing penalty. Fourth-year captain, defenseman Jonathan Shaw, blasted a one-time shot from the blue line that went five-hole on Blue Hens goaltender Griffin Iglesias.
“When I shot it, I knew he didn’t see it because there were so many bodies in front,” Shaw said. “The main goal on the power play is to take [the goalie]’s vision away and then have good movement to get the best possible look. ”
The Rams would add another goal before the end of the second period. Fourth-year Kevin Kanaczet flew down the right wing and put a well-placed wrist shot on net, finding space above the blocker of Iglesias to put the score at 4-1.
In spite of their three-goal period, the Rams were out-shot 14-8.
Continuing their flurry of shots in the final frame, Delaware was able to make it a two-goal game, scoring at the 11:49 mark on the power play.
Despite committing a penalty of their own just three minutes after the goal, Delaware killed it off and continued to generate opportunities.
A timeout was called by Delaware with 2:29 remaining in the period. When play resumed, a scrum in the crease ensued that led to the Blue Hens claiming they saw the puck cross the line, but the referee signaled no goal.
URI, after finally being able to break out of their own zone while Delaware played 6-5, put the nail in the coffin through an empty net goal from the blue line with 10.7 seconds left.
In these matchups with URI’s longest program rivalry, physicality was a huge factor. Saturday afternoon’s game in particular featured 12 combined penalties.
URI was able to convert on the powerplay, going 2-for-5 in a 5-1 win. Delaware also scored on the powerplay to make up their only goal of the game.
URI fourth-year goaltender Curtis Briggs stopped 29 of 30 shots that he faced on Saturday.
This pair of wins puts URI’s record at 7-6, but, according to Head Coach Joe Augustine, there are still a lot of improvements to be made.
“Overall, I thought they played pretty well and they made progress with what we’re trying to change,” Augustine said. “We’re trying to tweak our forecheck and be smarter with the puck in our offensive zone. Those things are starting to come together.”
His captain, Shaw, agreed that the team is not satisfied enough with their play.
“I don’t think that we played that well,” Shaw said. “Sometimes, our starts are slow. We wait to see what the other team is going to do. That’s something that we need to improve because once we get into games, we’re really good.”
The special teams units are an area that also needs improvement, according to Augustine.
“They’re definitely getting better, the more you do it the better you are,” Augustine said. “O ur zone entries and getting out of our own zone has to get much better, but we seem to be taking advantage of opportunities at times. But, we’d like to be a little bit cleaner in that area also. ”
Shaw, who consistently saw action on the powerplay, credits his teammates for their work.
“We have some really good players out there, so I’m just trying to get the puck to them in a good spot,” Shaw said. “I try to play the game harder to lead by example.”
Augustine is aware of the challenges that come with new players having to adjust to new environments and competing against top-notch teams.
“We have players coming from different programs that are trying to get used to what we do and how I do things, and we’re trying to get used to them and what they can and cannot do,” Augustine said. “There is a learning curve there, so every day I think we just have to get better. ”
URI will look to continue their winning streak at the Chicago Classic this weekend, where they will face Illinois State University on Friday at 4:20 p.m., Northern Illinois University on Saturday at 4 p.m. and Alabama University on Sunday at 11:10 a.m.