Lehigh’s ice hockey team won its first ever playoff game after three consecutive losses, beating Towson University in overtime 3-2 in the semifinals of the ECHA playoffs Saturday at Ice Works Skating Complex in Aston, Pennsylvania. However, the Mountain Hawks fell to Navy 3-2 on Sunday in the championship.
Coach Tom Laessig said Lehigh (15-12-1, 7-4 ECHA) started this season with the single goal of winning a playoff game. This season the team went into the playoffs as the second seed, getting a bye from the first round.
Junior forward Kevin McGee said the win was electric, especially coming in overtime.
“Winning big game like that always feels great,” McGee said. “But to do it in overtime in a playoff scenario is extra special. We were definitely excited about it, but we knew we had to be ready to get back to work the next day.”
McGee said while the team was disappointed with the loss, it was happy with the season as a whole. He said the team had made lots of progress this year and is looking forward to building on the momentum into next season.
Coming into the playoffs, the team suffered a three-game losing streak, but Laessig said the losing streak didn’t faze the team at all.
“We have always been viewed as the underdogs,” Laessig said. “You don’t get nervous as the underdogs.”
McGee, who finished second in the league with 27 goals and 75 points, agreed with his coach, saying he doesn’t think the losses really affect the locker room.
“We know we are capable of beating any team in our league,” McGee said. “So (Laessig) is just saying play our game, we know we are a good team, and we should be fine.”
And the Mountain Hawks had nothing to be worried about, being led by the top two goal scorers and points leaders in the league in McGee and junior forward Christopher Ramondelli.
With them as a top line, and the addition
of junior forward Henry Brooks, Laessig said he knew he could rely on them for goal-scoring ability. He said it is incredible how good they are as a line. Ramondelli finished first in the league with 31 goals in 27 games, and Brooks finished in seventh in the league with 21 goals in 27 games.
Laessig moved Brooks up to the first line mid-first semester, saying he knew he had to get him motivated and get him the puck.
“Brooks is a great player,” McGee said. “Obviously having a guy like him, when he is in the lineup, is huge for us.”
McGee said Brooks has a great hockey IQ and provides goal-scoring moments that the team rallies behind.
He said Brooks has the ability to find the soft spot of the ice and usually comes up pretty clutch, having a guy in the lineup like that, as talented as he is, is always beneficial.
The freshman class was a big part of the team’s success this year, according to Laessig, with four starting on defense and Andrew Carlin, who got named MVP of the ECHA playoffs, as goalie.
Laessig paired the freshmen defensemen with some veteran guys to help them learn. He said Carlin was a great goalie, and great goalies make you look that much better.
McGee said the influx of freshmen talent allowed the team to have more depth in the line, and many of them played huge roles on the team this season, like Carlin.
“We are looking forward to these freshmen getting even better and developing,” McGee said. “We’re looking for them to step into even bigger roles next year.”
Laessig said Carlin was a key player in net and is a top of the line goalie. He is excited to have him on the team for three more years. Laessig said when Carlin was in net, the team was winning league games.
Carlin suffered a lower body injury and was out for the last game of the regular season, which the team lost in overtime, and was listed day-to-day going into the first playoff game. Laessig said he is excited to have Carlin in net for the next three years.
The most memorable game in McGee’s mind was the home victory against Navy on Nov. 9, beating them for the first time in five years and on home ice, 6-4. Brooks had a hat trick in the game, Christopher Ramondelli had two goals and two assists, and McGee had a goal and an assist in the victory.
“Beating Navy on our home ice was a big win for us,” McGee said. “I think that kind of jump started us for a great run in the middle of the season when we won a bunch of games in a row and gave us more confidence in the year.”
This season is the first time in three years the team has had a winning record.