Utica spent the early part of the season showing everyone it can win the wide-open games. In fact, the scores were quite impressive: 6-1 over Morrisville, 9-0 over Fredonia, 7-2 over Nazareth, 11-2 over Elmira.
However, coach Gary Heenan’s crew has spent the past two weeks reversing the trend. As we get deeper into the season, and tighter games become more of the norm, the Pioneers have shown they’re going to be fine in those contests, as well, thank you very much.
A 4-3 win over Amherst Nov. 24 gave way to a rousing 4-3 overtime win over Buffalo State on Saturday. A thrilled crowd of 3,847 watched Adam Graff’s unassisted goal end it 3:46 into overtime, stopping a rally that saw the Bengals tie the game with two third-period goals.
Graff had two goals in the win, and Utica is sitting pretty at 7-2 as the Pioneers prepare for Friday’s date at Oswego. Graff now has eight points, and is one of five Utica skaters with at least five goals.
Simply Superior in close games
Speaking of nailbiter-type games, they have become par for the course with Wisconsin-Superior. The Yellowjackets are relying on depth and drive to hang around in games, and pounce at the right time. It all adds up to an 8-2-1 record.
Look no further than their last four games. On Saturday, Andy Singerhouse notched the winner, on assists from Josh Kesler and Cody Hotchkin, at the 13:58 mark of the third, and Wis.-Superior held off Wisconsin-River Falls, 3-2. A night before, the Yellowjackets battled to a 1-1 draw with those same Falcons, and in the previous two games, Wis.-Superior outlasted Concordia (Minn.), 4-3, and Wisconsin-Stout, 6-4.
No team gains any traction in tight games without safety and security in net, and for the Yellowjackets, that means Drew Strandberg. The junior is 6-1-1 with an .881 save percentage and a 2.34 goals-against average.
Superior takes on Augsburg Friday.
Wentworth working its way back
The ECAC Northeast is deeper than normal, and the playoff race will likely last till the final weekend. Despite a slow start, most in and around the conference expect Wentworth to be there in the mix at the end. This weekend may go a long way toward the Leopards turning the corner.
Wentworth, the preseason pick to win it all and the defending league champion, stopped a two-game skid on Saturday with a 9-5 victory over Becker in Marlboro, Mass. The Leopards improved to 5-3-1, 3-2 in the league, and set themselves up for a Thursday date vs. Wesleyan.
The offensive depth everyone expected from Wentworth is still there. Five players — Shaun Jameson, Mike Cox, Devin Cobbold, Kevin Crowe, and Joel Vastl — have at least seven points, and Crowe led the way on Saturday with two tallies.
The comfortable margin allowed coach R.J. Tolan to keep his goaltending duo busy. Alex Peck started and had 14 saves in two periods, while Jeff Giordani made 10 saves in the third.
Raiders rolling in Milwaukee
Coach Mark Ostapina has the Milwaukee School of Engineering rolling these days. The Raiders are 6-3-1, 4-0 at home, and it survived a tough weekend without much offense.
On Friday, Nick Kohn made 25 saves en route to a 1-1 tie with Lake Forest. Casey Moneer scored to give the Raiders a 1-0, third-period lead, and while they couldn’t hold it, they were stout enough to stem the motivation burst from the Foresters and notch the knot.
On Saturday, again against Lake Forest, Kohn made 33 saves, the defense stood tall, and the Raiders escaped with a 2-1 victory. Jordan Keizer and Kevin LoGiudice scored goals, as MSOE pushed an unbeaten streak to four games.