Weekend Sweep Earns Playoff Spot

They knew they had to win two games to at least make the playoff picture, and they did. Millersville swept the weekend by defeating the New Jersey Institute of Technology Highlanders 6-3 and the Bucknell Bison 5-2.

Neither game was easy. In both games, the opposition took the lead after Millersville scored first. Adversity faced, and adversity conquered. Both times, the Marauders racked off multiple goals to pick up big wins.

A new player joined the Black and Gold for the final push—a junior forward and Perkiomen Valley grad, Brian Monteith. It took him one minute to get on the scoreboard when his delicious dish found a cutting Josh Feehan who roofed a backhander to take an early lead.

“He’s definitely going to bring something for us in the spring semester, add a little more depth to our roster,” coach Ryan Behnken said of Monteith. “Bringing a guy like him on is definitely going to help.”

“Getting on the scoreboard early was nice,” Monteith said. “Gave me a little bit more momentum going into the rest of the game.”

NJIT rattled off three quick ones in short order. David Smetaniuk and Jason Anagnos capitalized on their opportunities to take the lead. The bench boss decided to stick with Jagiela and not switch out to backup Eric Hench.

“He’s a freshman, he’s young, he’s gotta take his licks, he’s gotta learn,” Behnken said. “You like to see a goalie who is resilient and comes back, and that’s what we got tonight from Dustin.”

In a scary event halfway through the first, Smetaniuk took a hit in the corner and broke several ribs, delaying the game even further. NJIT was already late getting to the rink because of the weather. That prompted no intermission between the first and second periods. The delay only helped the Marauders. Tim DiRugeris and Nick Mullarkey tallied in short order to tie the game at 3. Jagiela shut the door on everything the Highlanders threw at him, including several ten-bell saves. Read Bohon, Travis Duffey and Sean Nielsen all scored to seal it for the Ville. Nielsen extended his team-record point streak to 16 games with the goal. “I was getting nervous there for a little while, but I kept it going, so I’m pretty happy,” Nielsen said. The team wasn’t thrilled with the effort in the first period, but it all worked out in the end once they started playing defense and getting back to playing the Millersville brand of hockey.

“We just came out soft,” Nielsen continued. “Once we went down, we all settled in, got back to playing how we had been playing before the break.” The last time Millersville faced Bucknell, they routed them completely, 9-3. The Bison, out of a playoff spot, still wanted to play spoiler on the Ville’s playoff hopes, and they played like it. 

As with Friday’s game, the Black and Gold started off on the right foot. Cyle Knopf barreled through the Bucknell defense with two dazzling toe drags to score and give Millersville the early lead, again. Then the seemingly obligatory sag happened. Eric Hench, getting the start in this game, gave up a goal to Chad Schlaepfer early in his first start since suffering a concussion against Kutztown over a month ago. Millersville would not let Bucknell come back. The Bison took a major penalty by hitting Jake Bongiovanni in a knee-on-thigh collision. Bongiovanni would not return to the game, and he will be re-evaluated. This gave the Ville permission to score at will in the five minute man advantage. 

On the ensuing faceoff, Mike Carpenter won the puck back to Monteith, who slid the puck across to Nielsen for the one-time blast goal, extending the point streak to 17 straight games.  Austin Reaser picked up his 10th goal of the year after jamming home a wraparound off of a rebound to give Millersville a 3-1 lead.  “Taking advantage of the five minute [power play] is a big deal,” Read Bohon said. “Scoring twice off of it, and early for the first one, definitely benefitted us and picked us up.” The power play may have worked there, but otherwise it went silent, and that was something Nick Mullarkey figured should change.  “The power play worked quick in the beginning but we had a couple of them we didn’t control the puck,” Mullarkey said. “It’s not where it needs to be yet but it’s working now.”  The Bison started the second period well with a goal by Matt Young. But that is all the defensive minded team could muster.  The Marauders dominated after that, forcing Bucknell to sag back and take shot after shot. Tim DiRugeris, promoted to the top line after his solid play the day prior, scored his second goal in two games after tipping in a point shot, giving the team a 4-2 lead. Then DiRugeris continued his solid play by working hard behind the net and centering a pass in front to a cutting Mullarkey who tipped it into the goal, putting the game away and winning the game by a score of 5-2.  The freshman finished off his best weekend as a Millersville Marauder by leading his team to the victory and being a player the team counted on this entire weekend.  "In the beginning of the season I didn’t have my confidence,” DiRugeris said. “I came out this weekend just working hard, moving my legs, forechecking, backchecking.”

DiRugeris’ success changed the lines up a bit, putting him with Carpenter and Mullarkey, and putting Read Bohon with Brian Monteith. The lines will always be a work in progress.
Ryan Behnken credited the slower defensive game as a result of the long training camp, getting back into game shape. The effort wasn’t perfect, but it all worked out.  “They dug down deep for 60 minutes of hockey and they played to win,” Behnken said of his team. “Credit Bucknell for trying to come back in the second period there.” 

“I saw a lot of heart, and that’s going to go a long way in the rest of the season going into the playoffs,” assistant coach Pat McKenna said. “A lot of times it comes down to who wants it more, who has the heart to get down and dirty and we just kept pushing and pushing.”

With the two wins, Millersville has assured themselves a place in the GNCHC playoffs in Somerset, NJ in three weeks.