The puck rebounds to the side of the net.
Senior forward Chris Ramondelli puts it on his stick and passes it across ice to senior defender Joe Ramondelli, who one-times the shot.
The horn goes off, sticks go up and hugs commence. Joe sent the shot past the goalie for Penn State Berks late in third the period. The Mountain Hawks went on to win that game 9-1.
The Ramondelli brothers have been skating together since they were 4 years old and playing hockey since the age of 6. Growing up, the brothers had a lot of early morning practices before school. Now, the twin brothers practice together on the Lehigh ice hockey team.
Joe said they would wake up at 6 a.m., and their father would drive them to the rink to start their day off with a lesson. From there, they would head home, eat breakfast and go to school. He said it was tough, but they were dedicated. Chris said these early morning practices really bonded them as brothers.
“It is really nice just to have somebody so close to me play hockey with me and go through it all with me,” Chris said.
The brothers had no intentions of following each other to the same school. They had both applied to Lehigh, looking for a balance between academics and hockey, but also looked into other schools. Chris decided to come to Lehigh first, leaving Joe with a choice to follow his brother or not.
Joe said his brother’s decision made it a little bit harder to decide to come to Lehigh. He said he had thought about them going to the same school, but when Chris decided, it put the pressure on Joe.
“It was like wow, I have to decide now,” Joe said. “If I want to stay with him, or just kind of separate and go in our own paths. In the end, I liked Lehigh better, and I figured I shouldn’t let the fact that he was coming here stray me away from coming here.”
Seventeen years on the ice together have allowed the Ramondellis to predict each other’s movements and know where to place the puck. Chris said this allows him to have a head start on the play and he knows ahead of time where to go on the ice.
“I’ve played with him for so long, and I know what he is going to do,” Chris said. “So it’s kind of cool to know what is going on and read what he is going to do before he actually does it.”
Joe said every year they get more used to each other’s style of play, and they do have some set plays. Joe said defensive zone faceoffs are one of those set plays.
Right off the drop of the puck, Chris will go full speed up the ice while Joe flicks the puck from the bottom of the circle out of the defensive zone and tries to get it to Chris. Joe said odds are on a breakaway like that, his brother will score.
At Lehigh, the brothers aren’t on the ice together as much as they used to be. When they are on the ice together, assistant coach Pat Carroll said they are fun to watch.
“They are pretty wild, they are like twins,” Carroll said. “When they play together, they kind of know where they are at, it is kind of fun to watch when they are together.”
Coach Tom Laessig said it is not intentional that the two don’t play together often — they play two different roles on the team. Laessig said Joe is not as offensive minded and Chris has a stronger shot, but Joe is one of the fastest skaters on the team.
Laessig said he has never seen Joe get beat one-on-one in a game. Joe has a great ability to skate backward at high speeds, Laessig said, no one is ever going to turn him. Carroll said Joe is like a given on defense for the Mountain Hawks and he plays such a good game all the time.
“The ultimate compliment for a defenseman is when you don’t even notice they are out on the ice,” Carroll said. “And that is Joe Ramondelli.”
Chris is leading the Eastern Collegiate Hockey Association with 12 goals and 15 assists in 10 games played, followed closely by Lehigh senior forward Kevin McGee. Last season, Chris finished first in the ECHA with 32 goals, 55 assists and 87 points in 28 games played, again followed by McGee.
Laessig said Chris is remarkable for his size. He said Chris hangs out in front of the net and when the puck gets to him, it’s in the net.
“He is a little guy that gets into the nitty-gritty areas,” Laessig said. “He gets right into the big guys on defense, and somehow he gets his stick on the puck.”
Laessig said size is a factor for both brothers. Both brothers are 5-foot-7 and weigh 145 pounds. He said while their size does have some impact on them, it doesn’t hurt their ability to play. Chris uses his size to squeeze into places in front of the net, Laessig said, and Joe doesn’t let his size affect him on defense.
Their size causes people to underestimate them, Laessig said.
Carroll said the brothers are never afraid to go into these “dirty areas” on the ice and get hit by bigger guys. He said they both take big hits, bounce off and keep going. They never get knocked down.
“It is different for Joe because Joe plays defense, so a big,strong guy steps up in front, Joe has to move him,” Carroll said. “Chris is a little guy who can dart in and out.”
Both Laessig and Carroll said you can put either brother on the ice at anytime, it doesn’t matter the circumstances, and you don’t have to worry.
“We are going to miss them,” Laessig said. “We are going to miss them a heck of a lot.”
Laessig said while the brothers are two smart hockey players, the team is going to miss them for more than just their hockey abilities. He said the brothers are remarkable kids and will do anything to help someone out, and will do it with smiles on their face.
Chris said now that they are approaching the end of their hockey career, it is nice to look back at everything and know that Joe was alongside him the whole time.