Finals week is quickly approaching at Muhlenberg College. Everyone is stressed and working hard to finish the semester. But Joey Marcacci ‘23 and Louis Cocco ‘23 are focused on another set of finals. Both Marcacci and Cocco play for the Spartans, a local team in the Original 6 Hockey League at the Steel Ice Center in Bethlehem. On Wednesday, Apr. 26, the Spartans faced off against their rivals, the Bobcats, in a must-win playoff game that would determine if they would make it to the finals or not.
Muhlenberg is always referred to as a close-knit community and family. The amount of support shown at the game showed why. The atmosphere was electric from the first to the final buzzer. Many of Marcacci and Cocco’s close friends showed up to support them in a must-win game. Justin Billich ’24, when asked about the atmosphere, mentioned that “the match was incredible. Being surrounded by close friends and other Muhlenberg students was surreal and unlike anything else. We made the most of it by playing music during the stoppage, cheering, singing, dancing, and, of course, getting in the other team’s head a bit.”
A wholesome moment in the game came during the second period. It was tied 1-1, and Marcacci was on the breakaway with lots of open ice, scoring a crucial goal for his team. It was an incredible moment because the sea of Muhlenberg students in the crowd was ecstatic and went wild cheering for him. Marcacci’s unforgettable moment even included celebrating up against the rattling glass with his friends. It was a pure moment of joy. When asked about that unforgettable moment Marcacci said “the whole game was electric. Being a player on the ice and being able to experience a huge crowd like that is something I will never forget. After scoring on a breakaway the crowd went insane, it was such a cool moment.”
During the third period, it started to get a little rowdy on the ice. It was a hard-hitting game and a very close back-and-forth match between both sides. Nobody was letting up and the thought of playing in the finals was on everyone’s mind. With about five minutes left in regulation, the Bobcats tied the game up at two apiece. Cocco described how tense the game was when it was all tied up, “The team went out there giving it our all and played really hard, we all knew that it was a must-win game, the vibe on the bench and the ice was pretty tense, especially when the game was tied up 2-2. It was such a back-and-forth game as we scored to make it 1-0 early on, then they scored to tie it up, then we were able to score again until they tied it up once again a few minutes later.”
The last few moments of the game were intense. Within all the chaos, support continued from Muhlenberg students. The crowd never stopped singing and cheering. They wanted to see their peers win the game. Out of nowhere, in the remaining minutes of the game, the Spartans were able to score the go-ahead goal which would send the team to the finals. It was a moment to remember as the whole place erupted for their Muhlenberg classmates.
After regaining the lead, the Bobcats pulled their goalie for one final attempt. The Spartans capably defended this extra-man attack, while a strong feeling that the game was all but over coursed through the fans and the stands would soon be celebrating a Spartans win. As the final horn sounded emotions ran wild. What should have been an awesome moment turned ugly as Cocco was grabbed from the back by a member of the opposing Bobcats and a small scuffle unfolded. It was an intense moment but the crowd had Cocco’s back and was ready to support him. Recounting his experience watching from the stands, Billich said, “Towards the end of the match, one of the opponent’s players hit one of our close friends. It was wild. Then the whole crowd ran down to the action ready to defend our friend and jump into the rink if needed to protect him.” It was a moment that really showed how close Muhlenberg students are and how much they care for one another.
After the game finished, all of Marcacci and Cocco’s friends waited outside their team’s locker room to cheer them on and congratulate the two on the big victory. This included a giant group photo at the end, which was the perfect way to cap off a memory-filled night of hockey and fun.