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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ice Hockey Melts Out West

In its first-ever American Collegiate Hockey Association National Tournament appearance, the ice hockey team could not win a single game.

The Owls went 0-3 and failed to get past the first round in the ACHA Nationals in San Jose, Calif., last week, losing to Colorado State, William Paterson and, eventually, the National Champion Grand Valley State.

Sophomore forward Joe Pisko led the scoring for the week with two goals. Senior forwards Ryan Frain and Steve Danno also scored for the Owls, as well as junior forwards Chris Johnson and Pat McHugh.

While the first Nationals appearance in Temple ice hockey history is commendable, the Owls were outmatched. They gave up 14 goals and junior goalie Will Neifeld made 119 saves.

The tournament was organized into four pools of four teams that were made up of the Top 16 in the country. The teams played round-robin style from March 15-19, with the top team from each pool advancing to the semi-finals on Friday to set up the championship game Saturday.

Temple was in Pool A and started off the tournament playing Grand Valley State on Tuesday afternoon. Grand Valley State entered the tournament as one of the favorites to win after winning 19 games and being ranked No. 1 in the Central region of ACHA, the most competitive region in the country. The Lakers flexed their muscle in a 5-1 win over the Owls.

The Lakers got off to a quick start by scoring two goals and making Neifeld stop 20 other shots in the first period. They added another goal in the second period and two more in the third before Frain prevented the shutout with a goal in the 10th minute of the third. By the end, Neifeld made 43 saves on 48 shots. The Lakers’ offense was too much for the Owls.

Temple followed up their loss on Tuesday by playing a familiar foe, William Paterson University, on Wednesday morning. William Paterson received an automatic bid to Nationals after winning 25 games in the Southeastern region of ACHA, the same region Temple plays in.

The Owls played the Pioneers twice this season and split the series, 1-1. Again, they found themselves in a hole after the first period as the Pioneers scored two and forced Neifeld to make another 17 saves. Following another Pioneers goal early in the second, the Owls scored back-to-back goals to bring the game within one point, but the pioneers proved to be too much. They added three more goals to complete the 6-3 win.

Johnson, McHugh, and Pisko scored for the Owls and Neifeld made 41 saves.

Despite its tough first two games, Temple put forth a valiant effort against Colorado State on Thursday night. Colorado State entered the tournament on a Regionals bid after winning 22 games in the Western region of the ACHA. Both the Owls and the Rams went winless in their first two games and were eliminated from semi-final competition.

Thursday’s matchup represented a game of pride and a chance for the Owls to get their first win in Nationals history.

But the Owls lost in overtime to the Rams, 3-2, after giving up a game-tying goal with just four seconds left in regulation. Pisko and Danno scored for the Owls and Neifeld made 35 saves.

Grand Valley State went on to beat Michigan State, 6-1, in the finals to capture the National championship.

The Owls finished No. 5 in the ACHA Southeastern region and were an overtime goal away from winning the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey Association conference for the first time in school history.

Temple ice hockey entered the ACHA Regionals without ever having won a game in the tournament and then won two games to advance to Nationals for the first time in school history. Neifeld won League MVP and Goalie of the Year in the MACHA.

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