Pioneers hockey seniors go off on high note

John Fiorino, Production Manager

The Pioneers men’s ice hockey team beat Penn State-Berks on senior night by a score of 5-2.

After warmups, William Paterson honored its four graduating seniors with a small ceremony. Similar to years past, the team gave the departing players a bag with some action shots in a bag with other commemorative items to celebrate their career. Over the loudspeaker, forwards Todd Unger, Tyler Steimel, Hunter Ledwith and goaltender Nathan Leo were all called to have their moment on the ice.

“It’s great, they appreciate you, it shows a lot about the organization and a lot about your teammates because they’re playing for you as well so it gives you that extra energy to go out and perform well,” Ledwith said.

The Pioneers got on the board quick with a goal from freshman Alex Cavaluzzo. He started the scoring less than two minutes into the first period. Forward Thomas Bauer followed it up by knocking in his own rebound only eight minutes later for William Paterson to take a 2-0 lead.

There were times in the first period when Penn State-Berks was close to getting on the board. After maintaining possession low in the Pioneers’ end, the Blue Lions were generating chances by getting the defenders to move around. Leo came up with a huge shoulder save off of a one-timer in the slot to keep the score 2-0. He came up big on the penalty kill as well by shutting down angles and seeing the puck well despite traffic in front of the net.

“I saw the boys were struggling a little in the second and we had our third guy high so there were a few odd-man rushes and I just told myself I had to step up and help them out,” Leo said. “I knew if I shut them down that period that we would have a strong third and put them away.”

In the second period, Unger gave the Pioneers a 3-1 lead by putting the puck between the legs of Penn State-Berks goalie, Alex Goldbrunner. Unger snapped a four-game goalless drought to put in his third goal of the year.

“It was a great experience, I’m not a guy to put up a lot of points so to get a goal on senior night was very special to me,” Unger said.

Bauer, Ryan Vogt and Andrew Deangelis all had multi-point nights for the Pioneers to help lead them to victory. While Steimel did not make his way onto the scoresheet, he played a solid game on both ends of the ice. Steimel made sure his presence was felt in the defensive zone by laying out the Blue Lions forwards with big hits.

“This is the last game I’ll be playing at the home rink where I’ve played the last five years so just that alone gives you enough energy to go out there and give it your all,” Steimel said. “Also feeding off the other seniors’ energy as well, it’s huge, it gets the rest of the guys going and it worked out well for us.”

After getting the win on senior night, the Pioneers ended the season on a high note by winning at Lehigh University on Feb. 16. William Paterson qualified for the playoffs that begin on Feb. 22 in West Chester, Pennsylvania.