The Case ice hockey club started their league season last weekend with a home match versus Allegheny College and an away game at Gannon University. The team split the weekend with two exciting games against these divisional rivals.
The first home game was also a breast cancer awareness event, with the team sporting pink stickers and tape on their equipment. The Spartans didn’t waste any time capitalizing on the home-rink energy and excitement as they scored three goals in the first period. Two of these were from Will Brenn, with the third coming from Jonathan Greenberg with a critical assist by Will Zacher.
Despite some unfavorable penalties resulting in power play opportunities for the Allegheny team, the Spartans kept the pressure on, scoring four more goals before the half. The team continued dominant play through the third and fourth periods, scoring five straight goals in the second half. Jason Pickering logged his first three-goal hat trick of the season along with an assist.
Other scorers for the CWRU team were Zacher with two goals in addition to his assist, Evan Martin with two goals and Anthony Perugini and Dean Kelly, each with one score apiece. Goaltender Patrick Thomas had 23 saves for the game, which resulted in a 12-4 win for the Spartans.
The second match of the weekend saw a larger challenge as the team was facing off against Gannon University. Road games tend to be difficult for the team as many players are unable to attend due to other commitments. Despite the short bench, the Case team started strong with the only score from either team in the first period coming from Nick Smith off a Brenn assist.
Exhaustion set in during the second period when the opposition stepped up their energy and scored six goals in the 15-minute span compared to the sole score by Brenn for the Case team. Despite challenging and aggressive play by the Spartans, they were unable to capitalize on their shots taken and lost the game 7-2. Goaltender Cam Gutman kept the team in the hunt with 45 saves on the day.
Thomas, the club president, is optimistic about the chances for success within the Collegiate Ice Hockey Association league. Despite a challenging schedule of 12 games over the course of seven weekends, the team has a strong group of returning players. “This year it’s great because we have a really strong core group,” Thomas said, “we have a lot of players returning from last year, so it looks like it’s going to be a really competitive season. Lots of games are going to be close.”
The key to success in the league is strong home play. “It’s a huge advantage to be able to play on your home ice. You have your family and friends there and you can get to the rink to get ready before the game starts,” Thomas said. Since the team is usually travelling for a few hours for their away matches, and operating with a club budget, they are limited in the time they can allow to warm up before each game. The advantage of time is critical in the competitive matchups facing the team this season.
The team is attempting to capitalize on as much home-rink energy as possible by offering a shuttle service to their rink in Cleveland Heights on game days.
Acknowledging the difficulty for students to attend off-campus events, the club coordinated with the Greenies to shuttle fans to the Cleveland Heights Recreation Center from Fribley before every home game.
The Spartans have more competition coming up as they face off against Allegheny University again at home on Friday and the University of Pittsburgh at their rink on Saturday.