Ice hockey season debuts against Millersville

Ice hockey coach Jerry Roberts made it clear that when his team walks out of Lancaster Ice Rink after they play Millersville University Saturday, they expect to be walking out on top.

“We structured our schedule so that we could provide our players with an opportunity to get their feet wet in the beginning of the year, and we’re looking at this one as a must win,” Roberts said. “We can’t let this one slip away.”

Temple will open their season with the Millersville game and will have to keep their focus and intensity levels at a maximum in a game in which they appear to be the favorites, Roberts said.

“We’re not the seasoned group we want to be yet, but the one thing we do have control over is our intensity, focus and the ability to execute the game plan,” Roberts said. “If they come out with that drive and intensity, we shouldn’t have to worry about anything else.”

In what is the first test of the season, Roberts will be looking for good performances out of some of the team’s younger players, including freshman forward Jason Marbaich.

“I think [Marbaich] is going to have a good game,” Roberts said. “He’s looked really good in practice and it looks like he wants to show his new teammates what he’s going to bring. We haven’t had a freshman make a major impact in his first game in a long time.”

Millersville finished as the runners up in the Great Northeast Collegiate Hockey Conference last season, and compiled a 16-2-1 record, good for first place in the western division.

The puck is set to drop at 5:45 p.m.

-Andrew Parent

Tryouts prove fruitful for ice hockey

For ice hockey coach Jerry Roberts, tryouts weekend is Christmas in September.

“Tryouts are like Christmas morning,” Roberts said. “Sometimes you know what you’re getting and sometimes you’re in for a surprise.”

Roberts’ surprise present came in the form of two good-looking players who showed up at the Northeast SkateZone complex Saturday unannounced and off of Temple’s radar. That would soon change.

Junior defenseman Dan Redante, formerly of the Tri-State Selects team in the Empire Junior Hockey League, is returning to competitive hockey after a three-year hiatus. Though Redante last saw game action in 2009, Roberts believes that the 24 year old will be an immediate force on the blue line.

“He’s not like the guy in ‘Rudy’ where he barely made the squad,” Roberts said. “This kid’s going to be really good for us and will no doubt be one of our top defensemen.”

Freshman goalie Jon Plester was another who impressed over the weekend, and will join junior Chris Mullen and sophomore Eric Semborski in the goalie mix. Though Plester may see limited ice time this year, there is no question that he could make an impact at some point down the road.

“[Plester] needs some fine-tuning, but he has by far the highest potential I’ve seen out of a rookie goalie in a long time,” Roberts said. “After a year working with [goalie coach Ted Wood], I think he can be really good.”

While Redante and Plester were unexpected arrivals, freshman forward Jayson Merbaich has been on Temple’s radar for some time, and promptly shined over the weekend.

“[Merbaich] is the real deal,” Roberts said. “He was by far our best forward in tryouts. I’m willing to bet a lot of money that he will be our leading scorer this year.”

“I talked to [assistant coach and Temple ice hockey all time leading scorer Ryan Frain] and he said that if [Merbaich] plays out his entire eligibility, he’ll shatter Frain’s records,” Roberts said. “He’s that good.”

Though the Owls are coming off of a season in which it missed regionals for the first time since the 2005-06 season, Roberts was impressed by the intensity and seriousness of his rejuvinated hockey club over the weekend.

“There were a lot of returners who were nervous about whether or not they were going to make the team, and it made for a really competitive tryout,” Roberts said. “No returners got cut, but they were all fighting for a spot and were really serious about it. It was a good way to start the year.”

-Andrew Parent

Ice hockey releases schedule, eyes postseason

A more forgiving 2012-13 schedule for ice hockey may help ease the path to the postseason after the team fell short of that goal last year.

After struggling through the 2011-12 season that saw Temple drop 12 consecutive games en route to a 9-17 record, coach Jerry Roberts and his team ensured that more thought was put into this year’s schedule, released Saturday, July 28.

“Last year, we tried to make a statement early on,” Roberts said. “We scheduled as many difficult teams as we could find in that first half of the year, and it just didn’t work. We had a long losing streak in the middle of a very tough stretch, and a lot of them were close games against very good teams.”

“We spaced things out a little this year and really tried to be smarter about who we played and when we played them,” Roberts added. “There’s a lot more balance this year and it should really help.”

The Owls kick off the season at Millersville on Sept. 15, the start of a three-game road stretch in which the Owls will see the College of New Jersey and Lehigh University.

The home schedule opens up with Montclair State on Sept. 29, and will precede a big home matchup with Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey Association rival Penn State a day later.

Other key games include two meetings with MACHA rival Rowan University, the first being at Rowan on Oct. 13, and a daunting home-at-home series with top division rival University of Maryland Baltimore County on the Jan. 19 and 20.

“Those rivalry games are games that the players and coaches circle on their calendar right away,” Roberts said. “It’s always exciting to play big games like that, and as much as you might dislike a rival team or one of their players, those games end up being the most competitive and the most fun to play.”

After a 2011-12 season that saw the Owls miss the postseason for the first time since the 2005-06 campaign, the Owls will try to get things back in the right direction come September, and will certainly use an easier schedule as leverage.

“We learned a lot from last year,” Roberts said. “No one was happy with it and we had a meeting after the season and talked about what we needed to do to get better. Based on some of the adjustments we made as a team and with the schedule, we expect to be a lot better this year.”

Here’s a look at the ice hockey team’s complete schedule:

9/15 @ Millersville
9/21 @ TCNJ
9/23 @ Lehigh
9/29 vs. Montclair St.
9/30 vs. Penn State
10/5-7 American Collegiate Hockey Association Showcase
10/13 @ Rowan
10/14 @ Delaware
10/19 vs Virginia Tech
10/20 @ Rider
10/26 vs St. Joseph’s University
10/27 @ Montclair St.
11/3 vs Rider
11/4 vs Delaware
11/9 vs Liberty
11/17 @ St. Joe’s
11/18 @ The University of New York
11/30 @ Maryland
12/7 @ Monmouth
12/8 @ Penn State
1/19 @ UMBC
1/20 vs UMBC
1/25 @ Liberty
1/26 @ Virginia Tech
2/1 vs Millersville
2/8 vs Rowan
2/9 vs Monmouth
2/15-17 MACH North Playoffs
2/23-24 ACHA Southeast Regionals
3/15-19 ACHA Nationals

Drew Parent

Ice hockey prides itself on toughness

To coach Jerry Roberts, the fact that Temple ice hockey is a club sport leaves something to be desired.

“I think not being a part of the NCAA puts a chip on everybody’s shoulder,” Roberts said. “We want to win just as much as any collegiate team, and we play like it day in and day out.”

“We try really hard to change the way people think about the label of ‘club sport,’” Roberts added. “Just because we aren’t a high profile NCAA team doesn’t mean we aren’t legitimate.”

Roberts hopes his enthusiasm and attitude can drive Temple toward the success it enjoyed two seasons ago, one that yielded the only national tournament berth in team history.

After a 2011-12 season that ended with a 5-0 defeat to Penn State in a Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey Association divisional semifinal, the Owls are backed by several returning core players in search for a deeper playoff run this upcoming season.

“We have a lot more depth this year,” Roberts said. “This team is similar to the team that went to nationals two years ago. We have three or four lines of offense capable of scoring every game, and we have a deep defense as well this year. When you have the depth that we do, it really helps in those later months when guys get banged up.”

Although Roberts is optimistic about the upcoming season, there are areas of the team that have proved to be problematic in the past, and need to be addressed.

“One thing that we are really pushing this year is physical and mental toughness,” Roberts said. “We were soft at times last year and it really hurt us. We want our players to push themselves more and play with more confidence.”

While a chance to get back to the national tournament is important, Roberts’ goals go beyond the win/loss column.

“We want every team that we play against to see us as a tough team,” Roberts said. “At the end of the day, win or lose, we want to be thought of as the team that outworked and outplayed you from start to finish.”

Drew Parent