WEST POINT, N.Y. — Nic Serre beat Seneca goalie Arthur Strojny top shelf over the right shoulder with 24 seconds left in the third period, giving Army a come-from-behind, 4-3, victory over the visiting Sting on Friday night at Tate Rink. The Black Knights trailed 3-1 entering the final period, but scored three times to open their 100th season of intercollegiate hockey in dramatic fashion.
Serre’s magic moment came just as a crowd of 1,026 on opening night feared overtime was imminent. The Duluth, Minn., native gathered in a pass from defenseman Matt Field in full stride and burst up the near boards with an escort from Chris Casey, who had just returned from the penalty box. Serre fired it short side on Strojny and over his shoulder to seal the win for the hometown team.
“Seneca was cheating up because they wanted to score a power play goal and win the game,” Serre said. “Once I saw [Mike] McLean chip the puck up and out of the zone to Matt [Field], I had a head start on their defense and Matt made a nice pass.”
Casey and Chris Garceau each scored power-play goals in the third period to set up Serre’s winner in the final minute. Casey tallied just 17 seconds into the third, while Garceau knotted things up at 13:47 of the period. The comeback was a breath of fresh air for the Black Knights.
“To come from behind and win, especially with a lot of young players in the lineup, was good to see,” Army coach Rob Riley said. “We were trying to take care of a shorthanded situation, and all of a sudden, you look up and the puck is in the net. It was nice to finally win a close game like that.”
Seneca, who held a 2-1 advantage after one, got a power play goal of their own in the second period despite being outshot 21-4. The Sting sandwiched first-period goals around a Chris MacLeod breakaway to open up the slim lead. The Army junior picked up a loose puck at the Seneca blue line and streaked in on Strojny all alone to tie the game at one. The visitors had taken an early 1-0 lead on a power play goal by Dan Oshell.
Serre finished with a goal and an assist, while Chad Mayfield assisted on the two power play goals in the third.
Army showed the poise of a club that had been in this situation many times before and turned a loss into a win in its season opener. The Black Knights were coming off a campaign that saw them lose seven one-goal games, but were determined to learn from lessons taught a year ago.
“Everyone was calm and nobody panicked,” Serre said when asked about the demeanor in the home team’s locker room after the second period. “That is the big difference between this year’s team and last year’s club.”
Freshman goaltender Brad Roberts made 12 saves between the pipes in his first collegiate start. Despite giving up three goals on 10 shots in the first 40 minutes, Roberts shut out Seneca when his team needed him to step up.
“We certainly needed Roberts to shut the door in the third,” Serre said. “In his first college game, he was able to shake off the jitters and played extremely well in crunch time.”
Strojny stopped 40 Army shots as the Black Knights held a whopping 44-15 advantage in the shots on goal.
Army has a week to prepare for MAAC rival Holy Cross. The Crusaders invade Tate Rink for a 7 p.m. start next Friday night for what will be the Black Knights’ first league competition. ECAC rival Rensselaer next Saturday at Tate in a 7 p.m. start as well.