NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — On Friday night Iona used a run of six unanswered goals to defeat AIC. Saturday, the Gaels used a run of five straight goals to complete their weekend sweep of the Yellow Jackets with a 5-2 win. The victory gives Iona a modest 3-0-1 streak while AIC has now lost five in a row and six of its last seven.
For the second straight night, AIC jumped out to the early lead as Bryan Bassler tipped a Kevin Fournier shot past Scott Galenza at 4:09 of the first period. Alex Walsh received the secondary assist.
Unfortunately for the visitors, the blueprint of Friday’s game was played out on this snowy evening. While Iona did not strike back as quickly as at AIC, the Gaels would take the lead with two goals in less than four minutes.
Jean-Paul Chaput turned the momentum as he took a pass from Ryan Carter in the neutral zone, built up speed as he raced down the left side, and beat Frank Novello with a shot to the far post at 14:47. Chaput was quick to give credit to his teammates for their fine play as of late.
“Everybody is contributing,” Chaput said. “You’ve got [Brian] Schroeder putting up some points, [Nathan] Lutz as usual, and the forwards are playing great defensively. When everybody does their jobs, everything works well.”
The Gaels took the lead for good at 18:21 as Carter beat linemate Tim Krueckl to a loose puck in front and jammed home the rebound of a Lutz shot. Carter finished off the weekend with three goals and two assists.
The second period was a carbon copy of Friday night’s second period as Iona elevated its play and broke the game open with two goals in less than two minutes.
The Gaels stretched their lead to 3-1 as Lutz powered his way down the slot for a shot that was turned aside by Novello. As Lutz crashed into the boards, Novello was slow to return to the crease. That allowed the senior defenseman to center the puck to an open Michael LoCicero who calmly scored into the unguarded net. The goal was LoCicero’s third in the last four games.
Why the sudden offensive outburst?
LoCicero said, “I have been working hard all four years. I have just been in the right place at the right time and I have been able to bury the puck.
Coach Frank Bretti was quick to praise LoCicero’s play. “Mike LoCicero is a good example of a guy that has been getting some points lately and has been rewarded for it by jumping up the depth chart.”
Iona made it 4-1 as cycling deep in AIC’s zone paid off. Erik Nates caused a turnover at the left wing circle and Schroeder converted Nates’ cross-ice pass into a shot that a screened Novello never had a chance at stopping.
After those two goals, Wright began to get the feeling that it was just not his team’s night. “Iona is a very good team. They got a couple of quirky goals in the second period that we can’t afford to give up to team of that magnitude.”
Iona finished off its scoring for the night when Krueckl converted a Brent Williams centering pass as he a one-timed a wrist shot from the slot past the AIC goaltender.
Despite the 5-1 lead going into the third period, Bretti knew the game was far from over. “Overall, I was happy with our performance. In the third period, you kind of got the feeling that AIC has a lot of character and those guys were going to come out and make sure they at least won that period.”
AIC did not go gently into that good night, turning a power-play chance in the opening minute of the third period into its second goal of the night. This time, the quirky goal went AIC’s way as a Guillaume Caron shot from a sharp angle along the goal line from the right wing corner found its way past Galenza at 2:01.
AIC would get two more man advantages, but was unable to get any closer than 5-2.
Wright realized that his team had a much better time of it on Saturday than Friday. “We lost the hockey game — let’s not lose sight of that — but we certainly felt a lot better about ourselves tonight than we did last night. We had a little bit of a good start , and then we had a real lull. I thought we played a little bit better in the third period. We generated some chances. But again we didn’t capitalize.”
That improved third period was a key in Wright’s assessment of the state of his team. “We felt it was real important for us, down 5-1, to first keep in mind that we still had a chance to win the game. If that didn’t happen, we wanted to make sure that we ended up as positively as we could. We have Army next weekend so we had to look for a little momentum.”
Bretti was not only happy with the way his team “took care of business this weekend,” and was pleased to see such a team effort. “Any team that is going to be successful is going to get the most out of everybody. It’s important for some our guys who traditionally are not goal scorers to step up and take care of business.”
LoCicero summed up his team’s recent turnaround. “I think the team has been working a lot harder. We’ve been doing a lot of off-ice conditioning as of late. Our team is playing more physically and with a little more energy. Everyone is playing well as a team and our hard work is paying off.”
Iona (9-9-2, 8-4-2 MAAC) travels to Erie, Penn., for its first look at first-place Mercyhurst on January 25 and 26 for a pair of 7 p.m. games. AIC (6-12-0, 5-11-0 MAAC) hosts Army on January 25 at 7 p.m. in the front end of a home-and-home series that pits the MAAC’s eighth- and ninth-place teams against each other as they battle for the final playoff spot.