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Club hockey sweeps Robert Morris

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With a crowd adorned in costumes and a rival on the other side of the ice, the weekend series was everything a Marquette hockey fan could ask for. A Friday night 4-3 victory for the Golden Eagles was spurred by an overall team effort. A Saturday hat trick from freshman Brian Kennedy capped the sweep of Robert Morris-Peoria with a 7-3 victory in a game that was closer than the score suggested.

Friday night, the Halloween atmosphere featured a raucous crowd of students each sporting a bevy of costumes, from Disney princesses to NFL quarterbacks to a blind referee who snuck onto the ice before the game because he was “lost”.

The matchup versus RMU (3-5-0) was a physical bout. Senior Tyler Schwichtenberg opened up the game with a goal at the 6:05 mark, and, coupled with a Kennedy goal off a rebound, gave Marquette a 2-0 lead after the first period.

The second period got off to a quick start with a Ken Yamashita goal a minute into the period. A bad clear on defense led to the first score for RMU five minutes later. The aggressiveness soon began to pick up between both teams, with numerous big hits against the boards. A late goal with four minutes left in the period closed the gap once again, with Marquette up 3-2 after two periods.

Marquette quickly regained its two-goal advantage just moments into the period when sophomore John Stillman skated to the outside and scored glove side on a great shot from the wing. The period went back and forth, with two great breakaway saves made by junior goaltender Thomas Place. RMU was able to score its third goal late, but could not find the equalizer and Marquette held on 4-3.

Coach Will Jurgensen was ecstatic about the environment created by the fans and how his team was able to squeak out the win.

“The Friday night atmosphere was unbelievable,” Jurgensen said. “Like I told these guys before the game, that’s why we play. Especially in college, these guys put so much time and effort into it, to have the students be able to come out and support them like that, it’s awesome.”

Saturday’s game opened with a quick goal by RMU in the opening minute of the game. Marquette later responded with a short-handed drive and goal by Kennedy on a great pass from Schwichtenberg. A goal from Yamashita two minutes later, right after a power play gave the Golden Eagles an early 2-1 lead. But RMU scored as the buzzer sounded to even the game at 2-2 after the first period.

The second period was fast-paced throughout until RMU gained its first lead of the series on a power play. But after falling behind at the end of the second period, Jurgensen credited an inspirational speech made by team captain Matt Vuoncino that really turned the tide.

“During the 2nd intermission on Saturday I could tell the squad was drifting a bit and I knew coming out flat in the third down 3-2 would have a been mess,” Vuoncino said. “I got up in the team’s face a bit, challenged them and they responded. That’s the type of guys we have in that locker room, a group that’s willing to battle and when they’re fired up and playing our game, we’ll pop in 5 goals in a period.”

As Vuoncino mentioned, the third period became a blowout quickly for the Golden Eagles. Two quick goals from Kennedy and Stillman, along with a Schwichtenberg goal gave Marquette its seventh-straight win against RMU-Peoria over the past three seasons.

However, the victory was slightly marred by a massive fight between a number of players on each team, leading to automatic ejections on both teams. Jurgensen was disappointed with the fight and explained to his team that the victory mattered more than anything else.

“I just told them it hurts more on the scoreboard than anything else because they have to drive home and that 7-3 victory is going to hurt more than anything else that they could have said,” Jurgensen said. “When you say stuff, they forget it easy, but they don’t forget the score: the score is permanent.

Coming off the momentous weekend, Vuoncino believes that the team is clicking at the right time with the Mid-American Collegiate Hockey Association rankings coming out this Friday.

“We’re hitting the crossroad right now,” Vuoncino said. “We have a few good wins, and a couple not-too-great losses, but we’ve put ourselves in a position where we can really make some waves.  Every game coming up now is huge, and I think our group is really starting to hit our stride and that’s key.”

Marquette continues its home stand against Robert Morris Eagles-White (5-5-0) this weekend. Marquette will look to avenge getting swept last season at the hands of the Eagles. The game will start at 7:10 p.m. Friday night at the Ponds of Brookfield.

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