In an effort to upgrade the program toward national prominence, Ramapo left the secure confines of the MCHC, where they had won the League championships two of the last three years. They joined the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III. Iona College, the previous year’s MCHC winner, also joined, making Ramapo and Iona the only two non-New England teams in the thirteen-team Division. The Roadrunners scheduled a big-time slate with opponents like Princeton University Varsity Club, Trinity College, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), University of Pittsburgh, New Hampshire College, and Fairfield University. They would also face old foes Navy, Rutgers, Delaware, Lehigh, Quinnipiac, Villanova, Iona, Wagner, and FDU. Dennis O’Keefe left the coaching staff but Chuck Podgurski remained on as Assistant Coach. Todd Siben came to Ramapo as a transfer student and assumed the responsibilities of Team Manager.
The Roadrunners opened the season with a strong
8-4 wins over old MCHC rival Wagner but lost to Fairfield 4-3 in their first ECAC game. Games three and four were played in the Westchester Thanksgiving Tournament in Elmsford, N.Y. After defeating New Hampshire College 4-3 in sudden death overtime, the Roadrunners lost to Iona in the finals 6-3. Once again it would be the Gaels that deprived Ramapo of a trophy. Ramapo bounced back with a 7-3 win over Quinnipiac to go over the .500 mark at 3-2-0.
The Roadrunners suffered a setback by losing their next four independent games. A heartbreaking 4-3 loss to cross-county rival FDU was followed by an 8-2 drubbing at the hands of a vastly superior Princeton¬ Varsity Club. Pittsburgh visited Sport-0-Rama and skated away with a 4-3 victory. Navy traveled north to Ice World, the site of their 1976 rout at the hands of the “Super Team.” The Middies beat Ramapo 4-1 for the first time in three meetings.
Ramapo was invited to play in the first annual Crab Pot Tournament at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The Roadrunners defeated a very physical Delaware team 5-3 in the opening round to advance to the championship game. Ramapo jumped off to a 4-0 lead and withstood Delaware goals in the final period to defeat the Blue Hens. Ramapo’s opponent in the championship game was Navy, who had easily defeated Rutgers. The Middies had a lot at stake in the inaugural tournament. They were also trying to even the series record with Ramapo. Navy (9-1-1) out¬muscled Ramapo in the opening period to take a 4-2 lead. With more of the same in the second, navy doubled Ramapo’s output to take a 6-3 lead at the end two. Ramapo scored the only third-period goal and fell to the Middies 6-4. Navy skated off with the first title honors.
At the midway point of the season, the Roadrunners were facing the unpleasant, but real, possibility of a losing season. They were at 4-7-0 with eight of the remaining eleven games against tough ECAC opponents. The team needed to right itself with early second-half victories. Unfortunately, with the Roadrunners needing to go 8-3 to ensure a winning season, the team dropped their next four games. Against a tough Lehigh team, Ramapo lost 6-5 in sudden death overtime. After dropping a 5-2 decision to Fairfield, the Roadrunners lost another heartbreaker in overtime. This time they were beaten by Delaware 4-3. With their last two games overtime losses, a demoralized Roadrunner team was easily defeated by Iona 7-1.
Now at 4-11-0, the team showed class and determination. Instead of lying down, they rebounded to go unbeaten in their next five games. They avenged the earlier overtime loss to Lehigh, defeating the Engineers 6-3. The team had its highest offensive production of the season while routing Villanova 9-3. Although an inexperienced team, the gutsy Roadrunners managed to come away with ties in their next two games against strong opposition. They tied Iona 5-5 and RIT 2-2. Both games went into a single overtime period without a goal being scored. The comeback came to an abrupt end with a 7-0 blowout at the hands of Trinity and a 5-2 loss to Quinnipiac in the final game.
Ramapo finished its first ECAC campaign with a 3-7-2 record. Westfield State College won the ECAC Division III Title. The team’s overall record was a disappointing 7-13-2, the first losing season in the team’s history.
On a positive note, goalie Mitch Barnfield was named the ECAC Division III Rookie-of-the-Year and Harry Maynes was named to the ECAC Division III Second All-Star Team in his first season as a defenseman.