It doesn’t matter when the game is scheduled because it is possible to make a strong statement with some selected wins even as the first half wraps-up play in early December. Case in point, Norwich took on nationally ranked competitors for the top of the league standings in Massachusetts-Boston and Babson this past weekend and took two important wins, solidifying its position at the top of the standings. Elsewhere, Buffalo State made a statement of its own in knocking off a Geneseo team that had previously been unbeaten in conference play.
Here is the wrap-up for the first weekend in December as most teams get ready to shut it down for the semester.
Salve Regina was handed its first loss in conference play on Wednesday night as Wentworth upset the Seahawks by a 3-2 score, with Leopards goalie Kenny Graham earning his first win making 34 saves in the effort. The Seahawks bounced back on Saturday, taking down in-state rival Johnson & Wales by a 6-1 score. Six different players scored for the Seahawks, including a short-handed tally by Joseph Yeadon.
The game of the week though was between Western New England and Becker. WNE was on a high after being the surprise winner of the Rutland Herald Invitational over Thanksgiving and had rallied from a two-goal deficit with four unanswered goals, including three in 67 seconds, to take a 4-2 lead with just under three minutes remaining in regulation time. That is when the Hawks executed one of the more improbable comebacks of the season. Connor Merrick scored a power-play/extra-attacker goal with 90 seconds remaining in regulation and then Brandon Morgan tied the game with just 25 seconds remaining and the goalie again pulled for the extra skater. Morgan wasn’t done quite yet as he scored the game-winner just less than two minutes into overtime for the amazing 5-4 win.
The most interesting match-up of the weekend was a nonconference two-game series between Hobart and Skidmore from the NEHC. Friday night’s game lived up to its billing with an amazing finish. After two scoreless periods of play, Hobart’s Lawson McDougall gave the visitors a 1-0 lead just five minutes into the third period. Skidmore’s Anthony Bird again displayed his clutch level of play, scoring to tie the game with the Thoroughbreds net empty and just 0.5 seconds remaining on the clock. So on to overtime, where Nick Bingaman scored the game-winner and Alexander Connal, who only played in goal for the Statesmen in the overtime session, picked up the win in relief of Frank Oplinger. Saturday’s return engagement was also close and entertaining with two special teams’ goals scored 10 seconds apart in the second period — a power-play goal for Hobart followed 10 seconds later by Adam Moodie’s short-handed goal for Skidmore. This one also went to overtime but finished in a 2-2 tie.
Plymouth State took two wins over the weekend, fighting off a pesky Worcester State team on Thursday night by a 4-2 score that wasn’t decided until the final 30 seconds of play. The Panthers followed up that home win with a solid 6-3 road win over Westfield State with both Michael Economos and Chris Zuccaro recording two goals and two assists apiece in the come-from-behind win.
The Southern New Hampshire Penmen took the battle of Manchester, New Hampshire, with a 3-2 win over rival St. Anselm on Tuesday night despite being outshot by a 49-32 margin. Ryan Slatky made 47 saves in the 3-2 win that saw SNHU’s Timothy Baylis score short-handed in the final two minutes of regulation for the win.
Congratulations to Norwich coach Mike McShane, who picked up his 700th career win in his long and esteemed coaching career. The Cadets took care of business on home ice against two of their biggest rivals in knocking off Massachusetts-Boston on Friday by a score of 6-2 and shutting out Babson on Saturday 2-0. Kevin Salvucci and Paul Russell scored two goals apiece in Friday’s win while Tyler Piacentini broke open a scoreless game with two third-period goals to help the Cadets earn a weekend sweep and avenge last season’s road losses on the same weekend entering the final weekend of play in the first half.
Looking at the standings following the weekend, the biggest question is what is most surprising: the three teams at the top or winless Middlebury at the bottom? The Panthers extended their losing streak to six games following losses to Connecticut College and Tufts in their first home games of the season.
Meanwhile, Evan Buitenhuis and the Hamilton Continentals are rolling with two key road wins over Trinity and Wesleyan by scores of 4-1 and 2-0. Buitenhuis stopped 45 of 46 shots in the win on Friday night against the Bantams and then picked up the shutout against the Cardinals with 28 saves in the 2-0 win.
Buffalo State has kicked its game into high gear, posting a nonconference win over Nazareth on Tuesday before sweeping conference games against Brockport and previously unbeaten Geneseo by matching 4-1 scores. Mac Wood led the way with two goals in the win over Brockport, while Zach Nieminen scored a pair in the win over the Knights. Goalie Mike DeLaVergne picked up the wins to move to 7-1-1 on the season for the Bengals.
Evan Buitenhuis, Hamilton: The Continentals goaltender stopped 45 of 46 shots on Friday night, backstopping Hamilton to a 4-1 road win over Trinity. Buitenhuis was at his best in the first period, making 18 saves while his teammates scored three power-play goals for an insurmountable 3-0 lead.
Trevor Fleurent, University of New England: The first repeat biscuit winner had an amazing game in just the first period of the Nor’easters 8-0 win over Suffolk on Thursday night. Fleurent scored four goals in the first 20 minutes, including his first at the 30-second mark and his fourth with just over 30 seconds remaining on the clock. He later assisted on Dylan Bengston’s goal for five points in the first half of the game.
Darren McCormick, Cortland: The Red Dragons forward wasted no time in scoring the game’s first goal just seven seconds after the opening faceoff and then added the ultimate game-winner just three minutes into the second period as Cortland knocked off Utica by a score of 4-2.
While Oswego remains unbeaten, some other teams that were off to fast starts are struggling to end the semester.