The Montclair State University men’s ice hockey team has some important games coming up as their 2019-2020 comes to an end. The team is pushing for playoffs with four games left; two home and two away. Two wins will secure them a playoff spot, something the team and head coach Robbie Martinez have been striving for all season.
The Red Hawks started off the season strong with a 7-3 win against The College of New Jersey. Freshmen forwards Mike Miller and Billy Parsley scored two goals a piece, while sophomore defenseman Ryan Martinez had a goal and two assists and junior forward Shawn Meneghin had four assists. Sophomore goaltender Ondrej Smalec had a strong start in the net.
Despite this positive start, the team has since struggled to secure wins and find ways to score. With a home-based start to the season, the Red Hawks were pressured to try to win important games at Floyd Hall Arena against tough teams like University of Delaware and Marist College.
“Overall I feel like the season was a little misleading being that we won our first game by a landslide,” Miller said. “Then the second game reality set in place for us being such a young team. I think it kind of caught us off guard. A big part of our playoff push is going to be our defensive game.”
The team knew some changes had to be made in order to push for a playoff spot. Smart switches like moving Martinez from forward to defense has given some depth to the team. While the defense improved, the goaltending took a hit when starting sophomore goaltender Danny Porth tore his ACL six games into the schedule. This forced Smalec to step up and bear an unrealistic workload, facing tough division rivals like Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Nonetheless, Smalec bared down and gave it his all for the Red Hawks.
Two games have been especially momentum changing for the team this season. Porth ended up coming back after resting five games, knowing his team needed help in order to grab a playoff spot. A 2-2 tie against Sacred Heart University and a 1-0 shutout over Siena College showed the team they can be worthy of a playoff spot, both in which Porth played on his injury.
Steve Ramos, a sophomore defenseman for the Red Hawks, has high hopes that his team will make it to the playoffs.
“Coming into the second half of the season is always a little more difficult,” Ramos said. “It’s a long season and with guys being banged up it could be a struggle. However with the group of guys we have there’s no doubt in my mind we can make this playoff push.”
Ramos went on to discuss where the strengths of the team are.
“Goaltending has been without a doubt the anchor of our team this season with Porth and Ondrej,” Ramos said. “Offensively is where we have our most trouble, but if we play our systems correctly that’ll come. We just have to bare down for the next couple weeks and get it done. No excuses.”
Many players have stepped up this season, including Miller, Martinez, Porth and Ramos. They will play at Marist College Saturday, then Central Connecticut State University on Feb. 1. The Red Hawks will end the 2019-2020 season with a two game homestand, playing Army and lastly Sacred Heart. It will be an intense, but hopefully rewarding, end to the regular season as they are pushing for the playoff spot.
Miller discussed how he thinks his team should play in order to make the playoffs.
“Everyone needs to dial in and play the best defense we can,” Miller said. “The offense will come and we will get our chances but it has to come from the backend first. We have to pick up as many points as possible in our remaining games if we even want a chance to make playoffs and prove to ourselves that we are not giving up.”