Lehigh men’s ice hockey finished their American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) season with an overtime victory against Temple on Feb. 11, closing out a season where the Mountain Hawks came up short of the playoffs.
Lehigh improved on their win total from last season, posting nine wins against ACHA Division I teams across 22 games, compared to six in their previous season.
Throughout the season, the team played 10 freshmen on the varsity team. In an attempt to find their stride, players often moved around positions.
Freshman Shane Melead started the season as a forward but finished as a defenseman.
Despite the difficulty of changing positions, Melead said having experienced players on the roster helped him and the other freshmen adapt and perform.
“It was a little hard to adjust at first, playing a different role,” Melead said. “A bunch of my teammates who already played the position that I was switching to really took me under their wing and taught me what to do position-wise.”
Lehigh began the season winning two of their first three games, including a 4-3 win over Temple, who eventually made the playoffs. They followed up with a 8-2 victory against Towson, but won one of their next eleven games when they beat The College of New Jersey.
During this tough run, senior forwards Michael Grise and Ethan Behar took on leadership roles to help the team get back on track.
Behar said his focus was getting his younger teammates to relax and have fun playing the game.
“I think what I bring to the table a lot more than some other kids is not necessarily the energy guy, but the kid that always says ‘take a step back, know what you’re playing hockey for, and enjoy it,’” Behar said.
Melead said he attributes the team’s maturation and bonding to the upperclassmen’s leadership, which translated to positive results by the end of the season.
He said despite being one of the youngest teams in the ACHA, it didn’t show because of the team’s senior leaders.
“(The seniors) really helped motivate us and keep us in check,” Melead said. “We really were just able to benefit off the leadership from our seniors and from our captains.”
Starting Nov. 11, the team bounced back by winning or tying eight of their last 14 games. This run included a comeback 7-5 win against the University of Buffalo.
The game against Buffalo on Jan. 29 saw Lehigh trail 4-2 going into the third period. The Mountain Hawks scored five in the final period to give them a 7-5 victory.
When asked about this game, Behar said he credits the underclassmen, as he felt their performance in this game deserved the “spotlight.”
Grise agreed, and said it was the proudest moment of the whole season for the team.
In their game against Buffalo, Grise scored a goal that moved him into sixth place on the all-time Lehigh goals leaderboard. He said he considered this moment significant due to the time and dedication he gives to the team.
“For me, it meant I’ve put a lot into this program, and it’s kind of nice to see results paying off,” Grise said.
Grise accomplished this feat in only three seasons on the team. He will return to the team as a fifth-year student for the 2023 season. Every senior plans to return to the team next year except Behar.
Before playing his final Lehigh hockey game, Behar expressed gratitude for the program and his teammates.
“Lehigh hockey to me means family,” Behar said. “It’s more than just hockey at this point.”
Behar ended his career scoring the game-winner in overtime to defeat Temple, upsetting Temple’s senior night.
Given the growth from the roster throughout the season, Grise said he expects the team to compete for a playoff spot and give other teams a challenge next season.
“We can play with anyone,” Grise said. “All we gotta do is get that last spot in the playoffs, and we can definitely upset some people.”
Lehigh hockey will start their next season in September.