MARLBOROUGH, Mass. — A blink of an eye was all Johnson and Wales needed to move into sole possession of first place in the ECAC Northeast.
The visiting Wildcats scored two goals in a under a minute in each of the opening two periods and held off a furious third-period rally by Becker to emerge with a physical 6-4 win at the New England Sports Center Wednesday night.
“It almost happened too quick,” JWU coach Erik Noack said of the Wildcats’ goals. “I wish they were spaced out a little bit over two periods instead of scoring in bunches. It was one of those nights — we got the bounces and got lucky on a couple of them.”
JWU fired the opening salvo with a Shane Viola goal at 2:31, followed by an Adam Bolotin score just 41 seconds later.
While the Wildcats (12-9, 9-2 ECAC Northeast) were clicking, Becker had a hard time stringing together any consistency early on either end. An errant pass deep in the Hawks zone bounced to Jermiah Ketts and gave the conference’s leading scorer a one-on-one matchup with goalie Jack Rosenthal. The junior converted, flicking the puck in on the right post to make it 3-0 at 17:11.
The goal was Ketts’ 19th on the season and moved him into a tie with Milwaukee School of Engineering’s Jordan Keizer for tops in the nation.
And when Becker (8-11-3, 5-3-3) opened the second period with a Dan Kane power-play goal, JWU responded with two goals in a 25-second span.
“In order to beat a team like Johnson & Wales, you need to play 60 minutes, not 20,” Becker coach Steve Hoar said.
After Kane’s score cut the lead to 3-1, the Wildcats went on the power play thanks to an interference call on David Graham. With one second remaining on the man advantage, Jason Pietrasiak cut toward the crease from the left boards and squeezed the puck in among a crowd at 7:38.
Eddie Patterson capped off JWU’s second two-goal outburst with his second goal of the season at 8:03.
“Here we are, playing in our barn and they’re up 5-1,” Hoar said. “They were making a statement that they’re one of the top teams in the league.”
But with Rosenthal on the bench in favor of Tom Natoli to start the final period, the Hawks reversed course, scoring twice in under two minutes to make it 5-3. Becker pulled to within one on the power play when Brian Murray took a Mark Lotito pass from the opposite post and stuffed it past goalie Matt Cooper at 16:24.
“We came out first couple periods and got a good rush up the ice,” Ketts said. “They got a couple of power play goals on us and put us in a bind.”
But a pair of delayed penalty calls in the waning minutes hurt the Hawks, as Johnson and Wales was able to keep possession of the puck and burn precious seconds off the clock. With Becker shorthanded, Pietrasiak’s second score of the night at 19:51 sealed it.
“They crawled back into and I’m not surprised, to be honest,” Noack said. “That’s why it’s tight in our conference — you can’t take a shift or minute off.”
With the win, the Wildcats momentarily snapped a tie with Curry for first place, while the Hawks remain tied with Wentworth for third.
“In the college game you get a couple bounces and you’re up three goals,” Noack said. “But certainly Becker showed they’re a good hockey team and made it as difficult as possible to get the two points. It’s a crazy game.”