Pioneers Hockey Shut Out Against Dragons


courtesy of Don Bennett

John Fiorino, Managing Editor

The William Paterson men’s ice hockey team was shutout against Drexel on Friday night in Wayne.

The Pioneers couldn’t get anything going offensively against the Dragons and goaltender Jeremy Wik, who recorded a 39-save shutout.

For most of the game, the Pioneers rush was thwarted by either themselves or the tight defense of the Dragons. Many plays were broken up because of mishandled passes or not winning the race to the puck. In addition, Drexel played a tough game and defended its blue line very well. William Paterson struggled to gain zone entry and, when it did, the attempt was short-lived.

However, the physicality was high for both teams. Pioneers defenseman Walter Keiper in particular was a major presence with a few early hits in the game. There was a shift in the first period where he had multiple hits, including a bone-crushing pin against the boards.

“Being physical really gets everybody going,” Keiper said. “Whether it’s me or anybody else on the ice, you pick guys up who are having a bad shift.”

There were times throughout the game when the Pioneers had good pressure. On the power play in the third period, the Pioneers had a few shots on net and were making Drexel’s defenders scramble in the zone.

The Pioneers played their best hockey in the third period. There were some offensive chances, simpler plays were made and the team as a whole looked more comfortable on the ice.

“For two periods our effort level and making the simple plays wasn’t there,” head coach Joe Ballance said. “I think we had a few sloppy mistakes and it turned into goals against.”

For the start of the third period, Ballance pulled starting freshman goaltender Jeremy Hamerquist and put in senior Nathan Leo.

“Nate is going to be playing this weekend, so it was an opportunity to see some shots before his game on Sunday,” Ballance said. “To me, the writing was on the wall on where the game was going so it didn’t make sense to leave our starting goaltender in there. It’s also part of sending an internal message and I think the guys responded.”

The senior was called upon early in the period as the Dragons had a 2-on-1 opportunity off a fast break. Leo committed to the puck carrier and then slid across the crease when the pass was made to make the save.

“Coming in late in the third is always tough but I do my pregame routine in the 15 minutes I have,” Leo said. “I get in the net and hope the first one is nice and easy to save. Today it wasn’t, but I still made it and then confidence just builds from there.”

Leo stopped all of the shots he faced in the third and appeared calm in a situation where other goalies might struggle.

“I break down each period into four, five-minute periods and every five minutes it’s a 0-0 game all over again,” Leo said. “So to me, when I went in, the game was nothing, nothing and it was just as important as an overtime period or the first period of a big game.”

Overall, there was no shortage of shots to the net for William Paterson, but the quality of those chances was what was lacking. The Pioneers won a game at Drexel earlier in the year by a score of 5-4 in a shootout by getting bodies and pucks to the net. Being physical in front of Wik is how they won that game, but they didn’t do that on Friday. Drexel is currently the No. 1 team in the conference and it showed with how well it adjusted from the loss to William Paterson earlier in the year.

The Pioneers are in their final home stretch of the season with three games in as many days before heading to Lehigh University on Feb. 16 to finish their first regular season in the Eastern Collegiate Hockey Association.