GENEVA, N.Y. — Two quick goals to open the second period proved enough of an advantage for Hobart to win in the ECAC West semifinals. The Statesmen held on, pacing Utica for the remainder of the game in a 4-2 decision.
The victory sends Hobart into the ECAC West championship game on Saturday, where it will face RIT, which defeated Manhattanville 4-2 in the earlier semi.
Hobart took control of the game early in the second with a pair of goals. Off a faceoff deep in the Utica zone, Trevor Gowan sent a slapshot on net from the top of the slot. Miskovic made the save, but Colby McVey was the first to the rebound, and swatted it home at the 1:11 mark to give Hobart the 1-0 lead.
Less than three minutes later, Hobart scored again. The play was started by Edward Poirier, who carried the puck into the Pioneers zone down the left side. As he was carried to the boards, Poirier spotted Marc Borden alone on the weak side. Borden caught the cross-ice pass, walked in and wristed the puck past Miskovic for the second goal.
Lavalle had to make a series of strong saves to keep Utica off of the scoreboard around the 7:45 mark. First, he stopped a shot on a breakaway, and then three successive tries off of rebounds as the other players on the ice collapsed towards the net. But Lavalle scrambled and maintained Hobart’s 2-0 lead.
Both teams were taking the puck to the net more in the second period, compared to the first. Utica wasn’t down or out, and scored at the 13:39 mark to pull within a goal.
Hobart was unable to clear its zone. Ryan Webb collected the puck down low and found Jimmy Sokol alone in the slot. Sokol caught Webb’s pass and wristed it under Lavalle’s outstretched arm for the goal to make the score 2-1.
“I respect [Utica's] forwards,” said Hobart coach Mark Taylor. “They have a lot of guys who if you give them some room, they will score. I have a ton of respect for [Utica coach] Gary [Heenan], and what his team has done this year.”
Late in the period, Hobart re-established its two goal lead on a fluke goal at the 17:46 mark. They dumped the puck into the Utica zone. As it wrapped around the glass, it deflected off of one of the metal glass supports just as goaltender Miskovic headed behind the net to play the puck. It squirted out into the crease, and William Brame dove to poke it home for the Hobart goal, giving them the 3-1 lead at the end of the second period.
The goals continued to flow freely early in the third period. Utica narrowed the margin just :26 seconds into the period with a power play goal. The Pioneers were pressuring right off the faceoff to open the period, and Jon Ames finely poked in a rebound off a scramble in front of the Hobart net for the goal.
Hobart answered back just three minutes later to rebuild its two goal lead. Craig Levey sent a slapshot from the top of the left faceoff circle along the ice. Linemate Craig McVey, in a crowd of players, got his stick on the puck and deflected it just enough to evade Miskovic and find the back of the net. WIth the goal, Hobart extended its lead to 4-2.
Utica opened up its play as the period went on, trying to score the two goals it needed to tie the score. The Pioneers pulled the goaltender with 2:29 remaining in the game in desperation.
Hobart and Utica are two lunch bucket teams, bringing their hardhats and toolbelts to work each day, and played that way in the first period. They battled in the corners and along the boards, trying to gain any advantage that would lead to a goal.
“We knew they were going to come and play physical,” said Taylor. “Games like this, you expect it to be played hard.”
You got the sense from the opening moments that this game wasn’t going to be won with a dipsy-doodle move down the slot. It was going to be won in the little battles, player against player, with effort and heart counting for more than outright skill.
Hobart gained the first advantage five minutes into the opening period, streaking into the Utica zone with a 2-on-1 breakaway, set up by a strong play along the boards at its own blue line. However, Scott Leygraff was the lone defender back for the Pioneers and made a diving block of the cross ice pass to break up the play and knock the puck harmlessly into the corner.
The two teams continued to battle evenly, looking for any advantage. Utica almost took advantage of its own 2-on-1 breakaway at the 13:30 mark. This time it was Jimmy Sokol for Utica who sent the wrist shot low on net. But Statesmen goalie Adam Lavelle steered it aside to prevent the goal.
Neither team was able to gain an advantage in the period, although Hobart outshot Utica 9-6, and the period ended scoreless.