FAIRFIELD, Conn. — Les Hrapchak’s goal with 1.6 seconds remaining in regulation sent Sacred Heart to a 3-2 victory over Iona. The weekend sweep runs the Pioneers’ winning streak to three, and their unbeaten streak to five (3-0-2). The loss extends the Gaels’ losing streak to four.
“We’ve had to find a way to win the last couple of games we’ve played. They looked for it for 59 minutes and whatever, and found it. I think the guys are playing with a lot of confidence and we’re looking to carry that forward through this week in practice and into next weekend [in games at Canisius and Mercyhurst],” Sacred Heart coach Shaun Hannah said.
Unlike Friday night’s physical game, which bordered on dirty, the two teams settled down for some old-fashioned hockey. Some of that had to do with both teams settling down, but more of the credit goes to referee Bob Ritchie and assistant referees Alex Klein and Randy Zaritsky who met with the coaches prior to the start of the game.
Iona coach Frank Bretti did not instruct his team to alter its style of play prior to the game. “We talked about knowing that the game would be officiated tighter, but we really had no problem with that. Our team was aware that there were going to be more penalties called, but there wasn’t anything we changed with our strategy,” he said.
Hannah agreed that both teams were more focused on winning than they were on delivering some payback. “I think [Friday] night, for both teams, was a real emotional game. Everybody’s emotions were high and it’s tough to get to that level on the second night. Both teams came out and tried not to make any mistakes and capitalize on their chances,’ Hannah said.
For two periods, the game followed the same pattern. The Pioneers would score early in the period and the Gaels would respond with a late goal.
Garrett Larson followed up on his penalty shot goal on Friday by opening the scoring just 54 seconds into the first period when Hrapchak’s pass sent the freshman left winger in on a mini-breakaway.
Iona had an opportunity to tie the score later in the period, but failed to capitalize on a pair of power play chances that included a two-man advantage for 32 seconds.
The Gaels eventually tied the game at the 18:48 mark off a faceoff to the right off goaltender Eddy Ferhi. Brent Williams won the draw to Kelly Bararuk who beat Ferhi with a shot that beat Ferhi upstairs.
Once again Sacred Heart would strike for a goal in the opening minute of a period, this time it was Chris Mokos doing the honors 49 seconds into the second period. Mokos picked up a rebound of a Martin Paquet shot and fired home the go-ahead goal from the slot to beat Scott Galenza.
The Gaels tied the game on a goal with 6.6 seconds remaining in the period. With the faceoff to the left of Ferhi, Iona readied itself for its second two-man advantage — this time for 57 seconds. History not only repeated itself (with the late Iona goal), history was made as Ryan Carter scored his 92nd goal in his varsity career, breaking the Iona record held by Tom McCarren.
Ryan Manitowich won the draw to the right mid-boards. Erik Nates centered the puck to Carter in the high slot and the senior’s one-timer beat Ferhi. Nates’ assist was his 100th collegiate point.
“It’s a real honor knowing some of the guys who have set some high goal standards — like Pat Lyons. It just feels good knowing I was finishing it off with guys I started with. Nates got his 100th point on the goal, and it was nice to see him chip in on it,” Carter said.
After Iona was unable to capitalize on the 1:50 that remained on the one-man advantage, both teams settled in for 20 minutes of mentally and physically tough play in the third period. Each team would have a pair of power plays go for naught.
Sacred Heart swarmed Iona in the final 30 seconds of the third period as their forechecking set up a faceoff to the right of Galenza with only seconds remaining — thus setting the stage for Hrapchak’s goal.
“We knew there were 4.9 seconds left so the object was just to get the puck on net and just crash the net. So basically that was our goal — just get the shot there,” Hrapchak said.
Richard Naumann won the ensuing faceoff back to Hrapchak at the left point and the junior defenseman’s shot found its way past Galenza with 1.6 seconds remaining. The dejected Galenza broke his stick over the crossbar as the Pioneers celebrated their last second victory.
“It was a tough game. We didn’t want to come out and play that way, but that’s the way it happened. You just have to play through it and get the win,” Hrapchak said.
“It was a tough to lose that way — right at the end. I’ve got a buddy on their team, Garret Larson, who kind of had a big weekend against us. He said it was an unbelievable game and just a tough way to lose,” Carter said.
Bretti was disappointed with the outcome, but not with his team. “I thought we competed hard. We talked about some things earlier in the day and right now I feel for our team. This isn’t a game where I can be upset at them. For whatever reason, this is what we are facing,” he said. “I was happy with our team’s performance. We’ve just got to get back next week and concentrate on getting a win and feeling a little better about ourselves. We’ve got to focus on the fact that we are going to need a win. We have to build from there.”
Sacred Heart (13-11-4, 13-6-3 MAAC) visits Canisius for a Friday night game at 7:00 p.m. at the Buffalo State Sports Arena. Iona (11-15-2, 10-10-2 MAAC) hosts Army on Friday night in a 7:30 p.m. start at the Skate Nation Arena in New Rochelle, NY.