By Tyler Schrecengost
SPRINGFIELD — A tap on the microphone echoed through Smead Arena, interrupting the Springfield College Pride’s first pre-game warmup of the season. All of the attention from the audience suddenly went toward a black tarp hanging over top of the locker room entrance.
It was covering the 2018 Colonial Conference Champions banner, prolonging the glorious moment when the tarp would be torn and the banner would be cemented in team history. The tarp hangs right below the sign from the 2017 champions, serving as a constant reminder of how high this group has set the bar.
Members from these past teams that were in attendance were honored over the microphone, followed by the banging of sticks against the cold surface of the ice and the shouting of fans who had watched those teams become champions.
“Drop that banner boys!” the arena announcer passionately exclaimed the crowd, followed suit with clamors that lasted all night. The Pride had their moment of glory followed by an upsetting 7-3 loss to the Ramapo College Roadrunners on Friday night.
The Pride put on a hard-fought effort from start to finish, with fatigue and poor bounces playing a key role in the team’s loss. The seven previous games that the Roadrunners had played gave them the chemistry together that allowed them to exploit the jitters that seemed to plague Springfield.
Consistent physical pressure on the forecheck and crisp puck movement proved to overwhelm Springfield defenders. The Pride were outshot in each period and finished with a 42-30 shot differential.
Kyle Dekel kicked off the scoring around the 17-minute mark of the first period with a fantastic passing play by Keith Doherty while sliding on his knees past defensive sticks. The Pride’s inability to consistently break the puck out showed on this play, as it was a turnover by a defenseman attempting to clear the zone that set up the goal.
Springfield immediately came back on the attack though and began rushing shots to the net. They peppered Ramapo goaltender Sean Gordon, collecting every rebound until Gordon was ten feet out of the crease and twisted into what strongly resembled a pretzel. Jamie Matteo found a way to get the puck past the goal line, tying the game up at one a piece with an assist from Matt Hajdasz.
The second period opened with a flying Liam Whitman along the boards, closing in on the goaltender and saucing an improbable pass to Marc Steele for a one-time slapshot that blasted top shelf for a goal.
A scrappy goal from Ramapo’s David Subuto following some dazzling efforts from Chris Dressler flying through the Springfield defense tied the game right back up at two goals.
A big tripping penalty on the Pride with 9:25 left in the second period led to great chances for the Roadrunners. The Ramapo diamond powerplay allowed for Robert Spetz to end up finding the back of the net with 28 seconds left on the penalty kill, as Dekel and Luke Campomenosi picked up assists.
Just four minutes later, the Pride’s Jake Barnalle scored on the left side rush, but the celebration was cut abruptly short once again, as Luke Campomenosi came back immediately with a goal of his own.
With the game at 4-3 in favor of Ramapo going into the third period, the Pride kept pushing on and fighting through their fatigue. Captain Jackson Maxwell could be heard marching to the locker room calmly muttering, “plenty of time.”
For the Pride there would be no comeback and after Ramapo made it 5-3. With two more goals tagged on, the score would not tell the story of the game. Ramapo was dominant in most ways as the game got closer to the buzzer, but that should not diminish the effort put forth by Springfield in the waning minutes.
Pride goaltender George Matteo came up with some great saves throughout a game that contained many wide open big opportunities in the slot.
Dekel achieved what is known in hockey as a Gordie Howe hat-trick, as he tallied one goal, one assist and one penalty.
While the team obviously does not feel as if this is a display of their best efforts, the mood following was one of uplifting spirit.
“We have a group of very dedicated guys that care a lot about this and this game should be a good test for us…after these back to back championships we have a winning philosophy here,” said Maxwell in the days prior to Friday’s game.