The Rutgers Ice Knights open the season with a sweep of the Villanova Ice Cats!
Rutgers Men’s Ice Hockey (D1) opened the 2018-19 regular season with a sweep of the Villanova Ice Cats, outscoring them 11-5 and outshooting them 87-65. The combined play of the veterans and newcomers allowed the Ice Knights to play cohesively and respond well to adversity.
The team opened their season on the road at Hatfield Ice Arena Friday night. The first period was scoreless but Rutgers scored a pair of goals from forwards Josh Kim and Tyler Gutierrez to take a 2-0 lead. They would immediately allow Villanova to tie the game but Kim would score shorthanded shortly thereafter and that goal would be the eventual game-winner.
In the third, Kim would score his second shorthanded goal of the night and tallied a hat trick. Captain Griffin Privitera tallied his first goal of the season to cushion the Ice Knights’ lead and sophomore Ian Zyvith would score the sixth and final Rutgers goal of the night, securing their first win of the season in emphatic fashion.
Saturday afternoon, Rutgers hosted Villanova to complete the home-and-home series at ProSkate. The Ice Cats opened the scoring about four minutes into the game but the boys in red and black would respond 10 minutes later with a goal of their own. Mathew Sanchez received credit for the goal, his first of the season. They outshot Villanova 18-6 during the first period.
The Ice Knights began the second period on an abbreviated power play and junior Joe DeLandro scored his first goal of the season to give the Ice Knights a 2-1 lead. Villanova would score on a 5-on-3 power play opportunity to tie the game again.
At the beginning of the third, Kim scored again to put Rutgers ahead, followed by another one from DeLandro and another from Kim to give the Ice Knights a three-goal lead. DeLandro’s second tally would be the game-winning goal.
Head Coach Joe Dickson said, “I’m very happy with the group so far. The effort level from top to bottom is right where I want it. It’s a big turn around from last year. You know, last year we started off 0-5-1. This year we’re 2-0 and I will take that start every day. Very happy with the way both goaltenders played this weekend and newcomer Josh Kim had an exceptional weekend. Had seven points over two games.”
Kim currently leads the team in scoring, followed by linemates Privitera and DeLandro. After the game, DeLandro said, “Kim’s on my line and he’s got a ton of energy so I’ve been tryna feed off of that and try and keep up with him. He’s a young kid. He is definitely a point-per-game player. If we can feed off each other and then Griffin comes back to forward to center us, I think it’s gonna be a good year. It’s a good line. We definitely move fast. It’s fun.”
Privitera temporarily moved to defense due to an injury. Dickson said, “I was very happy with Griffin, of course. He needed to go back to D when an injury happened and he did a very good job back there for us and Joe DeLandro stepping up and like I said, I had very high expectations for him going into the season and so far, he has answered the bell.”
Dickson also made sure to credit the play of both goaltenders. Brandon Schellin and Chris Fiorillo started Friday night and Saturday afternoon, respectively, and both stepped up to the task to earn their first wins of the season. Fiorillo made 29 saves and Schellin made 31. They are both instrumental to the Ice Knights’ success this season.
Schellin said, ““Definitely not a lot of jitters. It was my first time back in over a year and a half, playing. I had a little bit of a health issue so it was definitely kinda fun to get back out there and get the win. Definitely should have had at least one of the goals but it’s okay. We still got the win so I’m fine with it.”
The defense has also played significantly better than last season, spending more time in the offensive zone and allowing fewer shots on net. #1 defenseman Sean Lippincott began his sophomore season with a pair of assists Friday night. Freshman forward Jake Goldstein and defenseman Brian Frister also picked up their first career points with assists.
Dickson also notes the team's resiliency: “I love the way they responded. Little bit of adversity. I felt that they went out, stuck to the game plan, and did exactly what the coaching staff asked and they did a very good job bouncing back. They stuck to the game plan, driving hard to the net and kept firing pucks, and it eventually paid off and we stayed disciplined."
The team will look to build on their 2-0 record when they open conference play next weekend with a pair of home games against Cortland State. Puck drops are scheduled for 8:30PM Friday night and 3:30PM Saturday afternoon.