Men’s Hockey looks to roll into playoffs

Brett Morrison| Lindenlink Contributor

*Photo courtesy of*

At the start of the season, The Lindenwood men’s ice hockey team was ranked No.1 in the coach’s poll. As of Feb. 1, they have dropped to No.7 in the nation.

This might not seem like much of a drop or disappointment to many people but to the team, it is a reality check. After going 31-5, including playoffs, last season the team currently sits at 13-9-4.

Head coach Rick Zombo said, “As much as it was nice to be nominated by the coaches to be the No. 1 ranked team at the start of the season, it was a target on our backs.” He tried to stress it to his players that it was just a preseason poll and that they should not pay much attention to it.

LU plays in the Central States Collegiate Hockey League (CSCHL) that contains teams from Robert Morris, Ohio, Iowa State, Illinois, and Indiana University. Luckily for the Lions, all teams make the playoffs, which will be held in Athens, OH Feb. 15- 17.

Zombo is not too worried about his teams overall record at the moment heading into the playoffs.

“When I was building the schedule for this year, I built it the strongest I could. I was looking for strong teams to play in order to build the team with competition. If I wanted a good record, I could have scheduled it like that. I wanted my guys to be battle tested.”

Going into the playoffs Zombo feels like his team has not been playing to their highest ability. “They have not put in a full 60-minute effort as of yet. Once they do, they will be more successful. They are going to have to get back to the fundamentals of the game. As well as get better on their special teams play.”

On the bright side, he feels that because of the tough times that his team has been facing all season long, it has been a way to build a strong foundation. The freshmen have been able to capitalize on the opportunity of upperclassmen not playing to their potential.

Even if the Lions are unsuccessful in their own league playoffs, they will still qualify for the National Tournament that will take place on March 1-6 in Bensenville, IL.

LU is ranked No.7 in the nation going into the last weekend of league play. In order to be eligible for the national tournament, they must be ranked in the top twenty. Zombo says it is virtually impossible for them to drop out of that top twenty.

The Lions lost both matches to Iowa State University in their last two regular season games Feb. 8 and 9 in Ames, IA. The Lions will compete next in the Central States Collegiate Hockey League playoffs Feb.15-17.