WEST POINT, N.Y. — Iona broke a 2-2 tie with three third-period goals in 1 minute, 25 seconds to take a 5-2 victory over Army. The victory not only ended Iona’s five-game losing streak, but it was the first win ever at West Point after going 0-18-1.
Iona coach Frank Bretti recognized the impact of Iona’s first win at West Point.
“It felt real good,” he said. “The guys gave me the game puck at the end of the game and that meant a lot to me. It meant a lot, not only for our seniors, but also for all the players who have been here in the past. It’s always a special game on our schedule and I was happy our seniors were able to experience a win here tonight.”
Unlike Friday’s game where the two teams were more content to play a finesse style of hockey, Saturday’s game leaned heavily to the physical — to the tune of 72 minutes in penalties and seven power plays per team. The first four goals of the game were all power-play goals.
For the second straight night, Iona jumped out to the early lead as Ryan Carter’s shot from the top of the right circle beat John Yaros to the far post at 5:18.
While Iona scored early, it was Army that threatened often as it fired 18 shots on Scott Galenza in the first period.
“It was just a matter of time before we broke out. If I could keep us in it long enough, I knew we could get through and the barrel would open up and we’d start scoring — and the guys responded,” Galenza said.
The Black Knights finally solved Galenza early in the second period as Chris Garceau walked out from behind the net and tied the game with a backhander at 2:38.
Army converted on a power play at 15:57 — a little more than a minute after killing off a pair of power plays that included a 5-on-3 disadvantage for 1:34. Joe Carpenter scored as he redirected Nathan Mayfield’s centering pass from behind the net.
Iona charged back to tie the game with their second power-play goal, 1:02 after Carpenter’s goal, as Brent Williams followed up on the rebound of a Nathan Lutz shot.
Army coach Rob Riley believed his team battled back after their scoreless first period and was in a strong position to complete the weekend sweep.
“The first period we totally dominated. We needed to come up with a little better outcome than we had. After that, the second period was pretty good. Then in three minutes it all fell apart for us. That happens sometimes [but] it doesn’t really happen to us here. They were a desperate team that needed a win and that’s how they played,” he said.
Iona broke the game open with their three-goal outburst early in the third period, and the catalyst was fourth-line center Andrew Segal who contributed a goal and an assist.
Segal scored the eventual game-winning goal at the 2:06 mark as he scored on the rebound of a Ryan Manitowich wraparound attempt.
Iona nearly made it 4-2 just 15 seconds later as Stephen Frappier’s shot from the left circle squeezed between Yaros’ pads but did not cross the goal line before the net was dislodged. However, the Gaels took a two-goal lead off the ensuing faceoff as Segal drew the puck to Dan Pike, who set Lutz up for a shot from the left point. The senior defenseman’s shot deflected off an Army defender and into the net at 2:26. Tim Krueckl capped off the scoring at 3:27 on an assist from Kelly Bararuk.
“I’ve been waiting for something like this to happen all year. You wait for the coach to give you the opportunity and you come out there and try to give the team a little spark. For four years we’ve been trying to get the job done [at West Point] and finally we did,” Segal said.
Said Bretti, “The thing that I was most impressed with was that we came out and won the third period 3-0. Lately, third periods have not been going our way. We got the win for our mental state more than anything else.”
Following the goal, Riley called a timeout to regain his team’s focus.
“There was still time left in the game. We just tried to settle everyone down. If we could have scored that next goal and pulled it to within two, then you can get a little momentum. We never could quite get that goal,” Riley said.
Army never got that next goal thanks to the play of the Iona defense and goaltender Galenza, who made 31 saves.
“Scott was terrific tonight and the two goals he allowed were on the power play, [and] I didn’t think there was he could do about them. That was the type of effort we needed. Things kind of snowballed in our favor — from the goaltending on out,” Bretti said.
Bretti continued to focus his team on the positive things while staying away from pushing the panic button.
“We just reminded our defense, with the rink being a little wider, to try and play within the faceoff dots. I just focused on the fact that I felt we played well on Friday night,” he said.
Galenza realized how important the victory was for Iona’s peace of mind.
“It was a big win to stay out of the bottom [of the playoff race]. I think everybody’s spirits are up so it was pretty huge,” said Galenza.
As the MAAC heads into the final weekend, Riley faces a daunting task as the Black Knights finish up the regular season.
“We have some holes to fill [due to injuries]. We need to kind of see who’s healthy on Monday. It’s like a guy from each our lines is out, so we are going to have to revamp our lineup and get a little better team defense,” he said.
Army (8-16-5, 8-11-5 MAAC) hosts Mercyhurst Friday night at 7 p.m. at Tate Rink. Iona (12-16-2, 11-11-2) hosts Canisius Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at the Skate Nation Arena.