The Lehigh men’s ice hockey team played two close games this past weekend, splitting their contests against William Paterson University and West Chester University.
Lehigh defeated William Paterson on Friday in a shootout by a score of 3-2 but fell to West Chester on Saturday by a 4-3 score.
Still, the team put on a quality showing after having not played a game in over a month.
“I think it was a really positive weekend, especially coming off of the break,” head coach Josh Hand said. “I was happy with how the guys played.”
Currently sitting at 7-9, the team remains in the ECHA playoff hunt – a solid improvement from last season’s record of 6-15. The Mountain Hawks have seven remaining games to make a final push for the postseason.
Friday night’s home game against William Paterson proved to be an exciting match. The Mountain Hawks jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but the Pioneers were able to even the score before the end of regulation.
The game went into a shootout, where freshman forward Ethan Behar solidified the win with a goal in the seventh round.
“I came in to the right, and I faked a shot, pulled it to my right, and then went backhand and the goalie went the wrong way,” Behar said. “I had a tap-in goal.”
Less than 24 hours later, Lehigh found themselves with a lot of work to do down 3-0 at West Chester.
In the third period, however, Lehigh battled back and tied the game up at three. The Golden Rams went on to score the game-winning goal before the end of regulation and secured the victory, but Hand had positive takeaways after the game concluded.
“I was really happy with the way we responded,” Hand said. “We put ourselves in a position to win. It didn’t go our way, they were able to get a fourth goal, and that was tough for us, but I think what we came away with was we can compete with anybody in our league, and our goal has always been in every game to give ourselves a chance to win.”
Hand emphasized multiple times that this weekend was a complete team effort. He commended the team for fighting back while down three goals away from home after having played a tight game the night before.
Hand was particularly impressed with first-year player Kenny Burgess, who is Lehigh’s only goalie. The team has heavily relied on Burgess throughout the season, and he will continue to be a crucial piece of a possible playoff run.
“I could talk all day about Kenny, he’s so good, he’s unbelievable,” Behar said. “He’s what keeps us in all these games. We kind of get peppered sometimes, and he just gets us out of these holes.”
Burgess said being the only goalie on the team can sometimes be strenuous, as he is on the ice four times per week, but it is quelled by his love of playing. He enjoys getting every start, another chance to play – and another chance to win.
“I feel like I’ve kind of gotten in a little bit of a groove lately,” Burgess said. “We’ve played some better teams, and we’ve played pretty well so personally, I feel good, and I think the team is doing better as well.”
The Mountain Hawks will face Rutgers University next on Friday, Jan. 31, on home ice at the Steel Ice Center in Bethlehem.