Hockey Playoffs On the Line

The Saint Louis University hockey club won’t have anyone to blame themselves if the team doesn’t make the Division I American College Hockey Association playoffs.

The Billikens are ranked 17th out of 35 squads. The top 12 teams claim playoff spots. The team’s next seven games come against teams that are ranked higher than the Bills in the polls. It’s the perfect chance for SLU to make its move.

“Within the next seven games you’ll see us in a make or break situation,” said Head Coach John Bosch. “It’s pretty exciting.”

Over the next three weekends, SLU plays Rhode Island (14th in the ACHA), Kent State (15th), Arizona State (7th) and Arizona (5th). Beating any of those teams will allow SLU to gain spots in the rankings.

The Bills started to make their move at the end of last semester. SLU carried an 8-11-0 record into the final stretch of four games. But the Billikens beat Northern Michigan in two games and crushed the Missouri Tigers, 9-2 and 6-0. The four-game win streak bumped the Bills above the .500 mark.

“It was a good way to finish the first semester,” Bosch said. “Our defense played well.”

SLU will have all of their players healthy when it commences play this weekend against Rhode Island. Forward Jasson Price returns from a knee injury, and other players are fully recuperated from their bumps and bruises.

The club also added three new players to the roster. Ted Niedbalski, a forward, decided to come back to school after a stint with the Junior A St. Louis Sting. Tom Arenos and Nathan Hirsch also have transferred and will see some time at the forward slot.

The addition of those three players will add more depth to the team and allow two players to return to their original positions. When the team was short-handed, captain Adam Brouk and freshman Brian Clinton took turns filling in at the forward line.

“The team saw what we did short-handed, and they feel good about having the extra three bodies,” Bosch said. “Guys were trying to do too much.”

In addition to the crucial seven-game stretch, Bosch noted that the team needs to stay out of the penalty box in order to win. During the four-game win streak, SLU outplayed its opponents when the teams were at even strength.

“With that confidence builder, it just leads to playing in a disciplined style,” Bosch said.

Play gets under way this weekend with a two-game set versus Rhode Island. Friday night’s game at 8 p.m. is at the U.S. Ice Sports Complex in Chesterfield. On Saturday the puck drops at the U.S. Ice Sports Complex in Fairview Heights, Ill., at 7:30 p.m.

The games will be the last two contests before they head out on a five-game road trip. On Feb. 4 and 5, SLU returns home for a two-game set against Lake Superior State.