No. 20 WVU Hockey Out-finessed by No. 2 Delaware

West Virginia's No. 20 club hockey team was swept by No. 2 Delaware in a weekend series at the Morgantown Municipal Rink Friday and Saturday. The Blue Hens' superior speed and passing ability out-finessed WVU's physical play and checking in 8-2 and 9-2 wins.

The contests, viewed by head coach Dan Mardis as an opportunity to impress the American Collegiate Hockey Association voters -- made up of team head coaches -- weren't close from the second period on.

Delaware (17-3-2) outshot WVU (12-14-2) handily in both games. In controlling the neutral zone and the pace of play the Hens turned tight checking games into wide open affairs with crisp puck movement and solid defense.

West Virginia's zone defense could not force the cross ice passes needed and never seemed to outman Delaware in the neutral zone to force scoring chances. It took a three on five power play for WVU to take its only lead of the weekend, 1-0 in the first period of the second game.

WVU, playing mostly in its own zone, also could never seem to clear the puck well. It hurt in Delaware's shots on goal edge -- which more than doubled WVU's in both games -- and the constant shot barrage Mountaineer goaltender Jon Natonick was under.

The freshman played well and kept WVU in both games by stopping most of the shots with which he was pelted throughout.

West Virginia, which has lost seven consecutive games after starting 12-7-2, likely won't gain any poll votes from the performance, but might not lose any, either. Only the top 12 teams make the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) National Tournament.

The ACHA is one step down from NCAA hockey, played by Boston College, Michigan and Michigan State, among others. Penn State, Kentucky, Maryland, Syracuse and Pitt field ACHA Division I teams, along with West Coast schools like Arizona, Arizona State and others.

The Mountaineers have road games left at No. 3 Eastern Michigan and No. 10 Michigan-Dearborn along with the Naval Crabpot Tournament, where they will likely face No. 14 Navy to end a brutal late stretch. WVU ends the season at second-ranked Delaware, coached by former Blue and Gold head coach Josh Brandwene, Feb. 15 and 16.

The final homestand is against Duquesne and No. 8 Towson Feb. 8 and 9, respectively.

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