In what may have been the final home game ever for the CCSU Ice Hockey Club, the Blue Devils were victorious on Senior Night, downing the Sacred Heart Pioneers 9-4 at Newington Arena on Friday.
Junior co-captain Joe Dabkowski’s hat trick powered the Blue Devil offense as they head into ACHA Regional competition on a five-game win streak. Fifteen different Blue Devils registered points in the victory, which once again showcased a potent Central offense.
“I was very impressed with how the guys looked,” said Head Coach Jim Mallia. “All four lines were coming together at the right time, kind of just like what we did last year,” a reference to finishing the 2007-08 regular season on an eight-game win streak.
The Blue Devils held an emotional edge with the uncertainty of the program’s future combined with saying goodbye to six senior student athletes. The offensive explosion began just 26 seconds into the game as Dabkowski opened the scoring, appropriately with goal number 26 on the season.
Less than two minutes later, sophomore Eric Blewett banged home his fourth of the season to give CCSU a 2-0 lead. Central’s third goal was the play of the game. The Blue Devils took advantage of a three-on-one as Matt Williams scored his fifth of the year thanks to some nifty passing from linemates Jeff Pease and Dane Anderson.
The tic-tac-toe marker certainly impressed coach Mallia.
“To see that from those three guys that were put together a couple of weeks ago,” Mallia said. “When they’re doing things like that, there’s no way I’m going to change that.”
Coach Mallia continued to praise the highlight-reel goal calling it, “one of the prettier goals I’ve seen in ten years.” A concern heading into the game was the quality of Sacred Heart as an opponent.
With the Pioneers sporting a record of 1-2 against Super East teams and their only win against a sub-par New York University team, it was another meaningless game for CCSU.
“In April, you schedule the teams and you don’t know how the teams are going to be,” said Mallia. “That’s just how the season ended.”
Dabkowski, a three-year veteran of the team, knows how important the past couple weeks have been for Central despite the lack of quality opponents.
“You’ve got to make sure you do all the little things that you always do. You go back to the basics against lesser opponents,” he said. “You’ve got to make sure you don’t get into any bad habits. It’s really just to build confidence, put the puck away, play well defensively and make sure you have everything in gear heading into the postseason.”
Seven different Blue Devils scored in the victory, as six players had multi-point games. Craig Prema and Mike DiClemente each had three assists.
“That’s what we need,” said Dabkowski. “We need everyone putting the puck away and everyone playing defensive hockey.”
Senior Craig Height got the start in net, splitting time with Carmine Vetrano. Height allowed one goal in thirty minutes and earned the victory, his seventh of the season.
Central’s regular season record comes to a close at 17-8-1. Corey Emilia led the Pioneers offensively, grabbing a goal and two helpers. CCSU now looks ahead toward Regional competition, held in Albany, N.Y. this weekend.
The teams ranked third through 10th in the Northeast will take part in a single elimination tournament, and two semifinalists will qualify for the Division II National Championship. Central reached Nationals last year, and looks to return for the second consecutive season.
Standing in the Blue Devils’ way in round one are the Nittany Lions of Penn State University. While they are no longer members of the Super East, Penn State is a familiar foe for CCSU. “They’re primarily the same team as last year that we beat 5-0 and tied 5-5,” Mallia said. “It is ironic. You had to figure one of the Super East teams would face them in the Regional, and it happened to be us.”
-Kyle Dorau, Sports Editor: firstname.lastname@example.org