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Deja vu: Wentworth ties Plymouth State in final minute

— They’ll take the two points from the series, but there’s reason for Plymouth State to be wanting more.

In an almost identical manner as the series opening game Sunday, the Panthers took a late 2-1 lead before allowing Wentworth to tie the game in the waning seconds, sending the teams to their second 2-2 tie to close out the series at Matthews Arena Monday night.

“I’m pleased with the output but not pleased with the outcome because of the late goals,” Panthers coach Craig Russell said. “We’ll adjust what we need to when we get back to practice on Wednesday and take it from there.”

After Wentworth’s Casey Shade tied the game at 19:02 in the third period Sunday, Mike Paglino served up the late rally Monday with a score at 19:16 to tie the game up. With goalie Chris Azzano (28 saves) pulled in favor of the extra attacker, Paglino buried a loose puck in the crease past the Panthers’ Jack Astedt to send the game to overtime for a second night in a row.

“It’s a tough place to play; the ties aren’t necessarily a terrible thing,” Russell said. “I didn’t know how we’d stack up against them physically but we proved we could do it. A couple of bad bounces both nights got them where they needed to be, and that was the game.”

As they did the night before, WIT drew a penalty in the overtime period, but once again couldn’t convert.

The Leopards’ Craig Cardone broke toward the net at 1:26 in the overtime period and was tangled up by Plymouth’s Jake Curtin, who was called for hooking.

Wentworth controlled the puck and sprayed shot after shot on net, drawing a series of “oohs” and “aahs” from the Leopards bench. But Astedt (27 saves) and the PSU defense held strong. The Panthers got a power play of their own at 4:43, but couldn’t convert despite pulling Astedt to give them a six-on-four advantage for the game’s final faceoff in the Wentworth zone with nine tenths of a second left.

Neither team was able to gain a territorial advantage early in the game, as they alternated between opposing zones. The Panthers killed off several early power plays, including a cross-checking call on Sean Foley at 5:22 and a high-sticking call on Tim Visich at 11:50. Visich was given a game misconduct as well, and with Chris Zaremba serving the high-sticking call, Richie Zobak was whistled for slashing at 13:07, giving Wentworth 43 seconds of five-on-three hockey.

The Leopards peppered shot after shot on net, but several went wide and those that made it on target were denied by Astedt.

After failing to convert any of its power-play chances, Wentworth finally got on the board when Paglino took a Cory Lillie pass and broke down the right post, flicking a shot that rebounded off Astedt and to the opposite post for a waiting Andrew Yarber, who hammered it home for a 1-0 Leopards lead at 17:37.

Plymouth State’s penalty problems continued at the onset of the second period when Alex Cottle was called for hooking just a minute in. Following that, the Panthers were forced to kill off another pair of penalties in rapid succession when Kyle Greco was called for high sticking at 3:56 and Zobak for holding at 6:29. Overall, Wentworth was 0-for-7 on the power play.

“It was good practice anyway,” Leopards coach R.J. Tolan said of his power-play unit. “I think it was getting a little better toward the end.”

Tolan said his team has still been trying to recover from the winter break, which saw it lose a large portion of its team for the Codfish Bowl due to winter weather that canceled players’ flights into Logan Airport.

“We’re really young,” Tolan said, adding that six or seven juniors have begun their co-op jobs in Boston, which forces them to miss practice time. “They’ve done the one thing I’ve asked of them, which is to play hard.”

After played short-handed for much of the early going, Plymouth State finally capitalized on a lapse by Wentworth.

With Joel Vastl serving the Leopards’ second too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty of the period, Plymouth State gained control of the puck after losing the faceoff.

Cottle grabbed a pass from Zobak and sped behind the net, making a nice back-door pass to Greco, who shot it past Azzano to tie the game 1-1 at 14:03.

Greco struck again at the 9:22 in the third to give Plymouth State a 2-1 lead, setting the stage for more late-game heroics by Wentworth.

“I was hoping for four points on the weekend, Astedt said. “Nothing less is acceptable, especially since we lost both games in the last minute. It’s just the the little things we need to work on. We have a good thing going and should not settle for anything less than a win. [But stuff] happens. [Stuff] happens.”

Wentworth (6-5-4) will host No, 11 Utica Sunday night at 5:45, while Plymouth State (7-1-4) will travel to Worcester State Thursday at 5:30 p.m.

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