1/9/2013 7:53 PM
7 PM November 10, 2012, the final horn sounds on a 5-2 loss to the Flames of Liberty University. UMBC, who began the year with aspirations of not only going to nationals, but competing for a national championship now sit at 5-7-0 on the season; having lost two straight, and seven of their last ten. The next day the Retrievers were taking on the #2 ranked Rowan Profs, undefeated to that point. 13 of 17 players remained from the team that was two overtime losses away from the national semi-finals last season, that team got to where they were through defense and hard work. The time had come to get back to those basics.
UMBC won that game vs Rowan, and 6 of their next 7 entering the end of fall semester at 11-7-0. UMBC was ranked #5 in the Southeast Region of ACHA Division 2 back on 11/10/12, they now sit at #3. The Dawgs were 2-2-0 in MACH play, good enough for 5th place in the South Division; on the outside looking in for a playoff spot in a league that UMBC has been in the Championship game each of the past 4 years. Now at 4-2-0, UMBC can lock up a playoff spot this weekend.
In December alone, UMBC was 4-0-0, outscoring their opponents 29-5.
Alot of that can be attributed to a change in the lineup. Nobody was added or removed, but the line of Sean O'Connor (Stony Point, NY) Matt Bloom (Ellicott City, MD) and Dan Durantaye (Ellicott City, MD) was broken apart. That line had been the top line all season and went back to the second semester last season. Now spread out between the top two lines with newcomers DJ Fadler (Crofton, MD), Zac Tracy (Marriottsville, MD) and Sophomore Dan Armstrong (Bethesda, MD); the old top trio has now turned into a legitimate 1A and 1B combination. The third line of Brandon Fritz (Walled Lake, MI), Thomas Nehring (Damascus, MD) and Alec Hanock (Calabasas, CA) has emerged as a true shutdown group, that pressures the puck and can chip in. The fourth line sees quite a bit of rearranging on a game by game basis, but Jean-Luc Durantaye (Ellicott City, MD), Jarrod Padgett (Millrift, PA), Hunter Penrod (Ellicott City, MD), Travis Joyal (Baldwin, MA) and Sean Walsh (Crofton, MD) have been valuable assets causing havoc in the offensive zone while staying responsible defensively. Hunter Nicolette (Fallston, MD) and Ryan McGuire (Bowie, MD) have yet to earn consitent playing time but have played well when given the opportunity.
Defensively UMBC has once again been led by team captain Nik Jost (Grosse Point Park, MI). The All-American from last year has dropped off with his offensive output this year, but has been a defensive stalwart. Most of the offensive output Jost has lost has been picked up by his fellow returnees Ben Rafferty (Amherst, NH), and Colin Devlyn (Highlands Ranch, CO). Rafferty is tied for third on the team in assists and is fifth in points while Devlyn's 3 power play goals is tied for the team lead in the category. Cody Selbert (West Seneca, NY) has come in and impressed while playing top 4 minutes despite being set back for 3 weeks with an injury. During his absence was the chance for fellow Freshman Matt Kelly (Conway, NH) to step into a playing roll and has earned every minute of ice time he has recieved. Brady Kiehl (Canal Winchester, OH), Andrew Nehring (New Market, MD) and Walsh have each also recieved significant playing time providing sound defensive zone work.
In net the Retrievers had planned to ride Sophomore Jon Drago (Guttenberg, NJ) as long as they could, but that plan was derailed due to an early season injury. Drago initially played trhough the injury but was not the same, then came the return of Trevor Miller (Macomb, MI). Miller had initially decided not to return to the team this season, but answered the call when the 3rd team All-Region netminder was put on the shelf to heal up. Miller responded by going 3-2-0 with a 2.20 GAA and a shutout in his absence. Drago has returned and gone 2-1 since, and with his health no longer a problem coming out of break is ready to make another run like he did in the postseason last year.
The road ahead is far from easy. UMBC still has 4 MACH-South games left on the schedule; 2 vs the University of Delaware this weekend, and a Blue Ridge road trip at Virginia Tech and Liberty. Also on the schedule is fiercely hated rival Temple for a home and home series next weekend. That takes care of January. Then awaiting UMBC in the 5th and final ranking period in #2 ranked Penn St. If all remains status quo during January, that game may very well which team receives an automatic bid to the 2013 ACHA Division 2 National Tournament in St Louis, MO. UMBC will also once again participate in the Crabpot Tournament Hosted by the US Naval Academy, with UMBC slated to play the host team in the opening round.
When all is said and done UMBC will know its postseason fate. The MACH playoffs in Abingdon, MD, the SE Regional Tournament in Pennsauken, NJ, and the ACHA DII National Tournament in St Louis are all possible. Only time will tell how the cards will fall; but the Retrievers are responsible for their own fate, and they have the drive to make what remains of the 2012-13 season one nobody will ever forget.