After a disappointing 0-2 start in its opening weekend, the West Virginia men’s D1 club hockey team grabbed two wins against Lehigh University in back-to-back games.
West Virginia showed up offensively, scoring six and seven goals against Lehigh, respectively. The Mountaineers allowed four scores against them on Friday but held their opponents to just one the following night.
WVU’s rebound wins over the weekend were crucial to avoiding a slump at the start of the season after losing to Alabama twice.
Head coach Kyle Richards attributes his team’s wins to playing its style and facing a very strong and physical team in Alabama to start the season.
"We got back to playing more of our style. The guys gained some confidence and were just more accustomed to the college game and got a much needed two wins," Richards said. "Alabama had much more depth. They are accustomed to winning and (are) much more physical and strong. Overall they had higher end talent."
The Mountaineers found scoring from all over the ice and featured several career-first goals from players like David Polinski, Spencer Schutte, Frankie Gerbasi, Gustav Paerson and Alec Hnat.
However, the team’s top players of the weekend were Riley Horvath and Tyler Conaway.
Horvath, who had one goal against Alabama, notched his first career hat-trick and added two assists Friday. Conaway added seven assists over the two-game series to make himself the team’s point leader through four games.
Richards started two new goalies in net against Lehigh with Ben Zienty and Luke Thurston. Each goaltender tallied their first career starts and first career wins Friday and Saturday.
"Zienty had a solid debut Friday night and really showed a knack for playing the puck," Richards said. "Saturday we played very good team defense, so Luke Thurston wasn’t tested too much but was there when we needed him. Overall, the goaltending was solid. Good to see guys pick up their first career wins."
Despite a strong defensive game Saturday from the Mountaineers, Richards still feels his team needs to improve in that area.
He also said his team needs to find a way to be more consistent, but that it’s something that comes with the growing pains of such a young team.
WVU will face a tough Oswego State team in another two-game series this weekend.
Richards said his main concern is his team’s unfamiliarity with their opponents, but he feels the Mountaineers should still compete at a high level.
The Mountaineers also face their first road test on Sunday against CHMA rival Mercyhurst University.
Richards said his team will be tested by playing each day this weekend, but he and his players take one game at a time and will continue to improve with each game.