UTICA, N.Y. — In a hard fought, hard hitting game which required a lot of ice packs afterwards, Utica College salvaged a weekend split against Potsdam with a 2-1 victory. The winning goal was scored on a two-man advantage power play midway through the final period. Potsdam appeared to have the tying goal cross the line with 20 seconds left, but the referees ruled it did not go in.
“It was a war out there,” Utica coach Gary Heenan said. “There were a lot of hard hits out there. We got guys hurt. I believe he’s got guys hurt. We haven’t played them in a number of years. It would be fun to get this going. I don’t think there’s a lot of love on the ice out there.”
“It’s a tough break for us, but we have to show more emotional discipline,” Potsdam coach Chris Bernard said about the no goal. “Those guys have a tough job to do. It was an unfortunate bounce against us.”
After a scoreless first period, Utica finally broke the ice at 6:05 of the second period, just after killing off a penalty with an ultra fast transition play. Scott Birnstill, racing down the right side, received a perfect pass from Eric Peterson, just as Birnstill entered the zone. He never slowed down, keeping the defense behind him and letting go a blast into the opposite upper corner of the net.
“I think we were a little sluggish,” Bernard said. “We didn’t get our feet moving with the puck early in the game. That’s one of those games I don’t think you lose, I think you run out of time.”
Four seconds after Utica negated their own power play with a boarding penalty, Potsdam tied it up at 9:55 skating four aside. Brett Waters’s shot was stopped, but the rebound came right out in front with no Utica player nearby. Kevin MacLellan pounced on it and scooped it around Anthony Luckow and deposited it into the open net.
Utica took advantage of two simultaneous penalties against Potsdam to score the first power-play goal of the night while five-on-three at 10:29 of the third period. After some heavy pressure down low, Peterson finally banged home a rebound to give the Pioneers the 2-1 lead.
“We actually had some key guys hurt that would have been on the unit,” Heenan said. “So some guys filled in. We just put the puck on the net. It was ugly. It wasn’t any great scheme. It wasn’t a pretty goal. The freshman Peterson banged it in. We haven’t been banging goals in.”
“I think our penalty kill was good,” Bernard said, despite the game winner. “We pressured hard.”
Potsdam only let up that one power play goal in 10 Utica opportunities. The Bears went scoreless on their seven power plays.
The teams continued to trade penalties as the game got rougher and rougher. All told, 27 penalties were called, including two majors and two 10-minute misconducts for a total of 76 minutes.
Potsdam pulled their goalie with 50 seconds to play, applying heavy pressure, including the potential game-tying goal that was ruled to not have crossed the line.
“Our goaltender shut them out in the final 30 seconds,” Heenan said. “I thought it was a great rebound [from the night before] by us. I thought we were sound all night.”
Luckow wound up with 12 saves as Utica did an excellent job of blocking shots before they got to the net.
Potsdam started Andy Groulx for just the second time this season and he made 25 saves.
“I think we got a great situation in our net.” Bernard said. “Both guys [Groulx and Trevor O'Neill] are playing great.”
“I think their goalie played really, really solid,” Heenan said. “A lot of shots hit him in the chest, and that’s a credit to him.”
Potsdam (5-5-0) returns to SUNYAC play with a game at Plattsburgh on Friday.
Utica (4-3-1) continues with non conference play traveling to Hamilton on Monday.