ROCHESTER, N.Y. — No. 3 Manhattanville defeated No. 2 Elmira, 6-5, in a tightly-contested ECAC West semifinal game Friday. With the win, the Valiants move on to their first appearence in the ECAC West finals, in only their second year of existence.
“We’re still a young team, and we had our emotional highs and lows tonight. But this win is just monstrous for us,” said Manhattanville coach Keith Levinthal.
The game got off to a quick scoring start for both teams, especially for Manhattanville, which struck just 17 seconds into the game. Sean Keane found himself on the doorstep with the puck, and he swatted it past Elmira netminder Rob Ligas for the goal.
“This goal helped us a lot, emotionally,” said Levinthal.
Elmira struck right back to even the game, 1-1, at the 49-second mark. Jay Zanleoni passed from behind the net to Kris Carlson standing just to the right of the Valiant net. Carlson slid the puck past Manhattanville goaltender Jon Peczka.
The game remain knotted until 8:28 into the period, when Manhattanville’s Chris Seifert attempted a wraparound as he skated out from behind the net. Ligas made the save, but Seifert collected the puck and slapped it home. That spelled the end of the night for Ligas; coach Glenn Thomaris decided to replace him with Nick Edling.
The Valiants took a 3-1 lead at 14:37 with a power-play tally. Freshman Dave Schmalenberg, from the bottom of the faceoff circle, flipped the puck past Edling and found the back of the net.
A late Valiant penalty allowed Elmira to climb back into the game with a power-play goal in the last minute of the period. Adam Godfrey carried the puck behind the Valiant net, and found Mike Hulbig alone in the middle slot. Hulbig made no mistakes with it, and tucked it into the top right corner of the net.
It was the first power-play goal Elmira scored on Manhattanville this year, after going 0-for-16 against the Valiants during the regular season.
The Soaring Eagles came out stronger early in the second period, and tied the game, 3-3, at the 5:58 mark. Manhattanville’s Aaron Gauthier fell down and coughed up the puck in the neutral zone. Soaring Eagle Matt Howarth collected the puck and broke into the Valiant zone alone. Howarth then beat Peczka on the glove side to tie the game.
Manhattanville coach Keith Levinthal called a timeout soon thereafter to calm his troops down, and the ploy worked. The Valiants retook the lead 12:22 into the period, while both teams skated 4-on-4. T.J. Cline collected an Elmira giveaway deep in the corner of the Soaring Eagle zone. Cline passed out front to Schmalenberg, who backhanded the puck past Edling to retake the lead for the Valiants.
The Valiants regained the two-goal lead early in the third period. Mike Camarinos scored the first goal of his collegiate career off a huge blast from the point for the goal at 3:42.
Elmira climbed back into the game midway through with two quick goals. Jason Silverthorn skated around the corner and made some quick moves to go behind the net. But Silverthorn stopped short, and slid a wraparound past Pezcka at 8:23.
Just 18 seconds later, Elmira tied the game again, 5-5. Josh Piro passed ahead through the neutral zone to Matt Howarth as he broke through into the Valiant zone. Howarth went in unmarked and beat Pezcka high. Previous to tonight’s game, Howarth had only scored one goal in 14 regular season contests.
“Matt is a hard working kid,” said Elmira coach Glenn Thomaris. “We moved him to center a couple of weeks ago to give him more freedom on the ice. And he has really stepped up.”
But Elmira’s momentum from tying the game was short-lived. Valiant Bill Cummings skated into the Elmira zone, marked by Soaring Eagle Eddie Cassie. Cummings tried to push the puck past Cassie, but the puck got tied up in Cassie’s skates. As the two jostled, coasting deeper in to the zone, Cummings was able to dig the puck out of Cassie’s skates. Cummings then slapped the puck past Edling for the game winning goal.
“We just get the gamed tied up, make one mistake, and we lose all the momentum that we had gained,” said Thomaris.
“We’re going to let the guys feel this one tonight. Then tomorrow we will refocus them and get ready for the Finals,” said Levinthal.