The Penn men's ice hockey club advanced to the playoffs in two different leagues this season. Although Rider nudged the Penn men's club ice hockey team a little bit closer to midnight this weekend, the grand ball of the Red and Blue's Cinderella season still seems far from ending. The Broncs eliminated the Red and Blue, 5-2, in the semifinals of the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey Association (MACHA) playoffs Saturday with their breakaway, high-pressure offense. Penn, however, still has this coming weekend's Delaware Valley Collegiate Hockey Conference (DVCHC) playoffs remaining, which will give the team a chance to wrap up its rags-to-riches season on a winning note. In fact, a winning note is almost guaranteed by assistant captain Whit Matthews, who helped Penn clinch first place in the DVCHC and a first-round bye in the playoffs by tallying four assists in the team's 7-4 win over conference opponent Kutztown Friday at the Class of 1923 Ice Rink. "Only one team is going to be left winning, and I'm pretty confident that everyone on the team right now wants to finish off the season with a couple of wins," he said. "We all know we have the skill to do it and we're the team that deserves to be in the finals." The Quakers have already proven that they are the dominant team in the DVCHC. Their 17-game conference record is tainted only with early-season losses to Millersville and Princeton -- both fellow members of the MACHA. But since the Princeton loss in late October, Penn has torn through its remaining 13 games, outscoring conference opponents 93-30. The Red and Blue also made up for their earlier losses during this run, beating Millersville 3-1 before winter break and exacting revenge on the Tigers two weekends ago with a 5-3 win. "We definitely know we can take care of any of those teams in that league," Matthews said. "We've beaten everybody in the DVCHC this year, and most of them twice. We've got a lot of confidence going into [the playoffs]." With their first-place status, the Quakers, along with No. 2 Temple, have been automatically advanced into the semifinals of the playoffs . The two top teams will face the winners of No. 3 St. Joe's-No. 6 Princeton and No. 4 Millersville- No. 5 Kutztown Sunday at the Lehigh Valley Ice Arena, with Penn taking on the lowest-seeded advancing team. The DVCHC finals will then be played in a best-of-three series the following weekend, March 3-5, at Lehigh Valley Ice Arena. Although Matthews is expecting a smooth ride to the DVCHC championship after the Quakers' decisive clinching of the regular season title, things weren't so easy for Penn in the more competitive MACHA. The Quakers were the lowest-ranked of the four teams coming into Saturday's MACHA playoffs, held at Monmouth University, and were paired up with top-ranked Rider for the semifinal round. Penn, though, didn't consider itself an underdog going in. After a dismal 0-9 showing in the league's inaugural season last year, the Quakers boasted a 7-5 record and had notched at least one win against all of the league's six member teams. Rider, in fact, had been the Red and Blue's first MACHA victim when they surprised the Broncs, 5-4, in early October. "They weren't expecting our team to be nearly as skilled as it was, especially from years past when they've blown out the team," Matthews said. Rider regained composure, though, and defeated Penn, 6-3, at the Class of 1923 Ice Rink right before winter break. Saturday's MACHA semifinal would break the 1-1 series between the teams and also send the winner to Sunday's championship game. Matthews felt his team was ready to put the series in their favor, "but things didn't work as we would have liked." Despite outshooting the Broncs 35-31, Rider's up-tempo offense, anchored by MACHA leading scorer John Lyons' four goals, overpowered the Penn defense and goalie Pat Baude. Baude faced multiple Rider breakaways during the game, which can be attributed to Penn's own aggressive offensive strategy. "We really knew that even though they had a strong offensive team, we couldn't strictly play a defensive game," Matthews said. The Penn offensive push resulted in a weakened back line, which Rider used to its advantage with three breakaway goals. Despite the loss and elimination from the tournament at the hands of eventual-champion Rider, Matthews said he was very pleased with Penn's showing in the MACHA this season. "We made a great showing against all those teams this year," he said. "It would have been more satisfying to win the MACHA playoffs than the DVCHC playoffs, [because] it definitely takes a lot more skill to beat the teams that we would have beaten in the MACHA. "But we beat them all once, and that was far more than what was expected last year."Comments powered by Disqus
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