McDaniel forged an 11-7 overall record and a 5-3 mark in the Centennial Conference last season on the strength of succeeding in close games. That squad was 4-3 in one-goal decisions and 3-0 in two-goal contests.
The Green Terror failed to extend that success to this past spring. The team went 2-2 in games decided by one goal and 0-5 in contests decided by two goals. That inability to close out the narrow decisions helped play a role in McDaniel's 5-11 overall record and 2-6 league mark.
"I just think it was a tough season," coach Matt Hatton said. "Obviously, we play a pretty competitive schedule, and we play in a tough conference and we lost a lot of close games, and that's oftentimes the difference between being a good team and a bad team when you play the type of schedule that we play. When I look back on it now and I look at how many tight games we were in, a lot of those two-goal games were, because of the new rules, we were down one and chasing, and we pulled the goalie and they made it a two-goal game. I think we won two games of the nine that we played, and that's not good enough. I didn't think we did a good enough job of finishing our opportunities and closing the door on some of our opponents. I feel like there's a lot of room for improvement."
To his credit, Hatton did not attempt to sugarcoat the team's disappointing year. But if there is a silver lining, the struggles of 2013 could aid the team's future development as the players earned some valuable experience in important contests.
That is something that Hatton is hoping will pan out in 2014.
"I certainly hope so," he said. "It's hard not to be optimistic about something like that. To be candid, we've been on both ends of those one- and two-goal games for the last seven years. I think your season is ultimately defined by your win-loss record, and if you're a competitor, that's the way you go about things, and that's what we certainly are here at McDaniel. But I think there is a learning curve – with the young guys in particular – and sometimes it takes having to take a couple of those on the chin in those tight games in order to really learn and figure out how to win those games. So if our season is defined by winning or losing tight games, we're fortunate that we were in those games. So we have had chances to win. From a big-picture standpoint, I don't think there's any question that you have to be in some of those games and you have to be battle-tested in situations like that in order to kind of step up and figure out how to win. I think that's certainly good for the future. I wish we would have figured that out a little earlier in the year. … I'm hoping that we can use that and move forward in the right direction and certainly, that's our plan."