To date, there has not yet been a more crucial weekend than this one for Jerry Roberts’ squad.
“This is like our [NHL’s] Flyers and Penguins or our [NFL’s] Eagles and Cowboys,” Roberts said. “This is why guys go to the rink, for [weekends] like this.”
The Owls (13-9) face a home-and-home series with top conference rival University of Maryland-Baltimore County Saturday and Sunday. The Retrievers (13-8) will play host to the Owls Saturday, while Sunday’s contest will take place at Temple’s Northeast Skatezone.
Against a UMBC team that thrives on special teams and the odd-man rush, Roberts stressed the importance of sticking to the game plan and avoiding those killer odd-man rushes.
“In my opinion, our game plan successfully accomplishes two things,” Roberts said. “We’re aggressive, we play the body and it takes a toll on everyone. But we have a safety net in our offensive fore check. We won’t get many two-on-one or three-on-two rushes, but we wear players down and there’s still a level of containment in there. It works well against the weaker teams and when we play better teams, it’s hard to play odd-man rushes against us.”
Cutting down on the penalties will be crucial to maintaining Roberts’ game plan. Temple compiled 196 total penalty minutes through its first 22 games, a number that leads the entire Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey Association and has the Owls well ahead of the runner-up in Liberty University with 161 PIM’s.
The high emotion that comes with big rivalry games such as these can come at a cost, Roberts said.
“In a rivalry game, it’s all about emotion,” Roberts said. “The biggest thing we’re going to focus on is to keep control of our emotions. Emotion is a very dangerous thing. You can use it for good just as easily as you can use it for bad. We need to have our guys to play with emotion and have that extra energy, but they can’t get too emotion and lose focus on the game plan.”
Junior Chris Mullen will get the nod in net this weekend, one in which goaltending will be arguably the biggest factor, Roberts said.
“Goaltending is going to be huge this weekend,” Roberts said. “Mullen’s going to have to step up and play at the same consistent level as he did all last semester. You might see a goaltender’s dual this weekend.”
Temple currently is on the outside looking in for the southeast regional playoff picture, sitting in 11th place. UMBC is sitting comfortably in the fifth spot. The first 10 seeds make the playoffs, making this weekend all that more critical for Roberts’ bunch.
The first bout in the two-game set will take place Saturday in UMBC’s Reisterstown Sportsplex at 4:30 p.m.