GENEVA, N.Y. — The Hobart Statesmen defeated the Neumann Knights by a 3-2 score to win the ECAC West Play-In game. With the win, Hobart moves on to meet Elmira in the Semi-final round on March 1.
Up and down play marked the first 10 minutes of the opening period as the teams vied for an advantage. Hobart struck first at 7:29 to take the early 1-0 lead.
Bobby Cahill caught a pass from Aleksey Koval at the far blue line and raced into the Knights zone on a 2-on-1 breakaway. Cahill whipped a wrist shot from the right faceoff dot that beat Neumann goaltender Mike Collichio high on the blocker side for the goal.
We didnt want it to be wide open, but with all the calls that are out there now, it is easy to get a wide open game when you are so nervous about playing hockey, said Hobart coach Mark Taylor. We dont want to run and gun with them. Weve been sharper but did a lot of good things and won a playoff hockey game against a good team.
Just 21 seconds later, Hobart was whistled for the first penalty of the game and Neumann cashed in on the ensuing power play. Neil Trimm, the Knights leading scorer, took a wrist shot from the middle of the slot that wound its way past Hobart netminder Keith Longo to tie the game 1-1 at 9:07.
Play settled down a bit after the spat of goals as the teams found it hard to keep up the torrid pace as the period wound on. Both teams had good scoring opportunities late in the period but the score remained tied 1-1 at the first intermission.
There was a little bit of feeling out going on out there, said Taylor. We got done what we need to do.
The pace picked up again in the second period and this time the teams were able to keep it up for the full twenty minutes.
Neumanns leading goal scorer, junior Mike Hedden, had two first rate scoring opportunities during the first ten minutes of the period. The first one came four minutes in when Longo stuffed him on a scramble just to the left of the net.
The second chance came mid-period when Hedden dinged a blast from the top of the left faceoff dot off the left post and into the corner.
Hobart recovered and took the lead at 12:44 of the period. The Statesmen were moving the puck around the perimeter while on the power play when Jordan Zitoun let got a slap shot from the right point. The puck deflected off the body of Hobarts Blake Bonham in the slot and in the short side of the net to give the Statesmen the 2-1 lead.
Hobart (18-6-2) got into penalty trouble early in the third period, giving Neumann a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:41 just five minutes into the period. The Knights threw everything they had at the Statesmen net, resulting in three great scoring opportunities, but the Hobart penalty killers held up and kept Neumann off the board.
After they got back to even strength, Hobart put on an aggressive forecheck and did a great job of pinning the Neumann players in their own zone.
What we wanted to do was just keep the puck in deep on them, said Taylor. It was key to battle their D with our forwarders and make their forwards play in their defensive zone instead of our offensive zone.
Neumann (17-9-0) pulled goaltender Collichio with 1:30 remaining in the period, but the ploy didnt work. Instead, Hobarts Thomas Capalbo launched a shot from center ice while falling down that went into the empty net at 19:18 to seal the victory.
Neumann got a late goal from Kyle Casey with eight seconds remaining, but it was too little to late for the Knights.