After a positive start to its season, the Lehigh club ice hockey team suffered back-to-back losses to West Virginia and Drexel this past week.
In its Eastern Collegiate Hockey Association division opener, Drexel University defeated the Mountain Hawks, 5-2. The loss puts Lehigh in an early hole, but with 11 divisional games left the division title is still wide open.
Lehigh coach Tom Laessig said his team’s goals entering the season were clear: the team wants to win the division and go to nationals.
“We lost our first league game, so obviously it is tougher, but our league is pretty balanced and our goal is still certainly within reach,” Laessig said.
Senior forward Henry Brooks said the team dropped the last two games because it struggled to play for a full 60 minutes.
Lehigh handed West Virginia a 7-2 loss Oct. 7, but then suffered a 2-1 defeat the next day against the team. West Virginia scored two powerplay goals to beat the Mountain Hawks during the second game.
In its next game, Drexel sealed a 5-2 victory, scoring its final two goals on a powerplay and then an empty net to hand the Mountain Hawks their first conference loss.
“Our goals are still attainable but we are going to have to work much harder now that we have a divisional loss,” Brooks said.
Despite their 0-1 conference record, the Mountain Hawks (4-2-1-0 overall) are tied for first in the ECHA with 12 points. Their .571 win percentage also tops the conference with Navy in second at .400.
Lehigh has been led by senior forwards Kevin McGee and Chris Ramondelli, who are tied for the top spot in the ECHA for points with 20 each. The next highest point scorer in the ECHA is Navy’s Matthew Harrigan with 13.
The duo of McGee and Ramondelli has been balanced in contributions. McGee leads the conference with nine goals, while Ramondelli leads in assists with 12.
“McGee and Ramondeli have been essential scorers for the team this season,” Brooks said. “They’ve done a great job scoring goals every game for us.”
Senior forward Evan Goldstein has also played a huge role for Lehigh this season.
“(Goldstein) has been monumental in providing play-making abilities on the second line, allowing his line mates to generate many scoring chances every time they go out on the ice,” Brooks said.
For the next portion of its schedule, Lehigh will travel to the University of Pittsburgh on Oct. 21 to take on the Panthers in a two game set. Pittsburgh has a perfect 8-0 record so far this season, with a combined six wins coming against Towson, Temple, Villanova and Penn State Berks, all members of the ECHA.
“We have a lot of potential for success,” Goldstein said. “To make a statement around the league, we need to take down good opponents like this upcoming highly ranked Pitt team.”
To prepare for the series, the team has focused on tightening up in the defensive zone and on the penalty kill. Additionally, it’ll need to focus on playing more disciplined hockey and avoiding mental mistakes.
Goldstein has seen the program transform from a last-place club his rookie season to a team that has the opportunity to compete for an ECHA league championship now in his senior year.
“The hockey program has developed a strong winning mentality and a drive for success that has been unmatched in this organization’s history,” Goldstein said.