Lawrenceville, N.J. — A depleted University of Delaware Division 2 men’s hockey team (13-4-0) never found their groove on Friday night (Nov. 16), falling to Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey rival Rider (10-3-1), 7-3, at the Loucks Ice Center.
Not only were top defencemen Andrew Marciniak and Dan Demas sidelined due to upper-body injuries and second-line winger Ryan Johnson due to illness, but Blue Hens leading scorer Ryan Morse was also scratched after sustaining a lower-body injury in last Sunday’s 5-4 win over Liberty.
The Broncs, led by a pair of goals each from Chris Johnson and Mike Klein, pounced at first asking, outshooting the Blue Hens 13-5 in the first period and maintaining a looming presence in all three zones. T.J. Evan poked the puck into the net from under Delaware goalie Eric Birnberg to put Rider on the board 9:37 into the game. With 38 seconds remaining in the first period, Johnson was awarded a penalty shot after he was disrupted on a breakaway, and the right winger took full advantage, firing the puck into the top left corner of the Delaware goal after approaching the net head-on at full speed.
Delaware, who struggled to generate momentum out of their own zone, came out of the first intermission with a little bit of life to storm the Broncs net in the first few minutes of the second period. After Devin LeBlanc’s net-front punch-in through the legs of Rider defenceman Mike Kauffman was waved off as a result of play having been blown dead a split second before, Steve Bryson put the Hens on the board amid a similar net-front scrum at 3:45. The senior centre earned his fourth goal of the season from the right edge of the crease, jamming the puck into the lower right corner of the Rider goal to halve the Broncs’ lead, but the last eight minutes of the middle frame belonged entirely to Rider. John Martino and Klein beat Birnberg in the 13th and 15th minutes before Johnson notched his second goal of the game and lifted the Broncs to a 5-1 advantage by crashing the net for a 10-foot top-corner wrist shot with 69 seconds left in the period.
After ceding five goals on 30 shots through the first two periods, Birnberg (3-2-0) was relieved in net by Stephen Odgers, who recorded six saves on eight third-period shots faced.
Delaware’s power play reduced the Rider lead to three at the 11:55 mark of the final period, when Devin LeBlanc launched a laser under the left leg of Rider goalie Angelo Perri from the top of the zone. A backhander off the stick of Jeremy DeWit from the left dot, set up by Blue Hen rookies Spencer Ruthkowski and John Ryan, brought Delaware to within a pair at 14:47, but the Broncs exploited holes in the Delaware defence to reclaim those tallies.
With 4:41 remaining, Broncs second-line centre Cole Moskal crashed the net for a picture-perfect redirect of a Chris Walako centring pass from the left half boards. Forty-five seconds later, Klein earned his second goal of the game and iced a 7-3 Rider victory with a 25-foot wrist shot from head-on that connected over the glove of Odgers.
Perri made 23 saves in victory for Rider, improving to 4-1-1 on the season. Rider was 2-for-6 on the power play, while Delaware went 1-for-4 with the man advantage.
Delaware travels to Rowan on Saturday (Nov. 17) night before the ACHA takes Thanksgiving weekend off. Game time from the Hollydell Ice Arena in Sewell, N.J. is 8:30 p.m; coverage on Delaware Hockey Night Radio begins at 8:15 p.m.