Hockey just shy of No. 2 seed

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In a battle for the No. 2 seed and an automatic bid to nationals, No. 3 DePaul Hockey Club fell just short after splitting a must-win series with No. 2 Michigan State, losing 8-2 Friday and winning 5-3 Saturday. DePaul’s two Friday goals were scored within two minutes of each other in the second period, the first by freshman Vince Volpe followed by a power play goal from Taylor Paine, but they were not enough to overcome what was already a five-point deficit.

“We just didn’t come out ready to play [Friday] to be honest,” said Billy Allen, captain. “They’re a good team. We hadn’t seen competition like that in a while. So, I mean, we’re not making excuses. We definitely weren’t ready for the game or as ready as we should’ve been and, you know, we’re just gonna move on. We had a meeting in the locker room after the game and we really decided that we were going to forget about everything, go out Saturday and just play our game.”

DePaul (24-7) did just that, coming out strong on Saturday, with Andy Ritter scoring the first goal just five minutes into what quickly became an aggressive, hard-hitting sixty minutes.

With the game tied at one and just under five minutes left in the first period, DePaul had already tallied 10 penalty minutes and was about to face even more, as goalie Cory Netrefa was given a 10-minute misconduct and two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Shortly after backup goalie Ben Campbell came on the ice, Allen skated off after receiving a 10-minute misconduct and a game disqualification, his second of the season.

“Well, the ref, I felt like the ref was out to get us a little bit, as bad as that sounds,” said Robertino Presta, forward. “[Billy] really didn’t say anything. It was just, I don’t know, he talked to the refs at a bad point and the refs just decided to throw him out.”

Although DePaul managed to stay out of the box for much of the second and third periods, a hard hit from behind by Daniel Mannes landed him a five-minute major, 10-minute misconduct and two game disqualifications, his first of the season.

DePaul went on to win the game 5-3, with goals from Michael Menton, a second goal from Ritter and one apiece from Cody Staehely and Volpe.

“I think we proved to everyone and, more importantly, to ourselves on Saturday that we can play with the top teams in the nation,” Paine said. “So everyone’s really happy, I would say.”

The team faces Eastern Illinois this upcoming weekend in their final regular season series before hosting regionals Feb. 26-27. Both Mannes and Allen will sit out this weekend’s series against Eastern Illinois, due to their disqualifications.

“We’re just gonna have to work extra hard in practice and just do our best,” Allen said of being out the weekend before regionals. “It’s not that big of a deal. We’re not too concerned. It’s a really easy weekend with Eastern Illinois (10-6). Now, the biggest thing for us is just to not get anyone, anymore DQs or get anyone else injured this weekend.”

Danny Pietro, forward, suffered a season-ending injury late in Friday’s game against Michigan State, breaking both his tibia and fibula. After undergoing surgery, Pietro will be in a cast for six weeks, according to Paine. Michael Dotson, forward, has also been out since the first week of January with a torn meniscus.

Although this weekend will not count towards the final rankings and the team will be short four players, DePaul is still expecting to win.

“We just kinda want to make sure we’re just firing on all cylinders for regionals,” Paine said. “We’re pretty much just looking ahead because these games don’t matter for the rankings, but obviously we want to play well. We expect two wins.”