Holding down the fort. Keeping the puck out of your own net. Taking care of the defensive end. There are all coaching clichés heard every weekend of the season. However, at this time of the season, the need to take care of the puck and be smart in the defensive end is even more important as the race to the playoffs is on and sometimes the offense just isn’t there every night. There were too many crooked numbers up on scoreboards this weekend and teams have to be willing to put out the defensive effort and even win ugly as there are no style points in this sport. Case in point, the Plattsburgh Cardinals showed they could win with solid team defense and opportune offense this weekend in taking down Buffalo State and Fredonia.
Here is the wrapup with games that ran the gamut in no goals, a few goals, or a shooting gallery.
In the showcase game of the weekend between Endicott and Salve Regina, only one team showed up, and it wasn’t the guys playing at home. The Gulls chased starting goalie Blake Wojtala with five goals in the first 35 minutes of play and cruised to a 9-1 victory. Tommy Besinger led the point parade with five assists and seven different players scored for Endicott, including two by forwards Josh Bowes and Jason Kalinowski.
The Gulls were at their best on special teams play. The power play was 3-for-4 on the night and the penalty kill unit held Salve Regina scoreless while adding insult to injury with two short-handed goals by Kalinowski and Bowes.
Hobart may have joined the second half part later than most teams, but they certainly have had things going their way since returning to action on January 13. The Statesmen are on a seven-game winning streak, having outscored their opponents by a 30-13 margin.
Friday night saw the offense led by Jonas Toupal’s hat trick and 11 players recording points in a 7-3 win over Lebanon Valley. Defenseman Mitch Beyer and Nick Bingaman scored power-play goals and freshman Tim Sestak made 18 saves to earn his first win in his first start for Hobart.
Saturday night was a much more difficult game for the Statesmen, as Stevenson matched Hobart’s energy and intensity by rallying from a two-goal deficit to tie the game at 2-2 on a third-period goal from Jack McNamara. Hobart wouldn’t be denied the win, as Jordan Haskell scored just 39 seconds into overtime with assists from Vincent Russo and Ben Grenier to skate away with a 3-2 win
The Salem State Vikings have found their game at the right time of the season as their four-point week moved them to 8-2-2 in conference play and extended their unbeaten streak to five games since a nonconference loss to Endicott to open the New Year.
On Thursday night the offense was on display as six different players scored goals and the Vikings launched 54 shots against Framingham State. Derek Makimaa, Callum Hofford and Parker Stevens each had a goal and an assist in the 6-3 win. On Saturday, Salem State won a much more defensive conference game by a 3-2 score over Worcester State. The Vikings had to overcome a first-period deficit leveraging a pair of goals from Hofford and the game-winner off the stick of Casey Miller in the second period. Jason Pucciarelli kept the Lancers off the scoreboard in the third period, making 14 of his 28 saves to earn his eighth win of the season.
Stonehill extended its conference winning streak to four games with wins this week over Southern New Hampshire and Franklin Pierce. In Wednesday night’s win over the Penmen, goalie William Palmer made 30 saves and five different Skyhawks scored while the penalty kill unit held SNHU scoreless on 10 power-play attempts.
On Saturday night, Palmer was again a critical element in the Stonehill victory, making 42 saves on 43 shots in a 3-1 win. Conor Cassidy, Connor Jewett and Evan Jacques helped build a 3-0 lead over the first 40 minutes of play, and that was more than enough for Palmer, who surrendered just Evan Marek’s goal late in the third period.
As my friend Paul MacNamara fondly refers to the “Pepper Pot Award” for players with offensive prowess and an affinity for shooting the puck from anywhere, Saturday night’s conference game between SNHU and Assumption saw a combined 121 shots on goal. Assumption won the contest and outshot the Penmen by a 73-48 margin. Nick Commesso made 46 saves in earning the win, while SNHU goaltender Ryan Slatky stopped 69 shots, including 31 of 33 in the second period where his net was officially under siege. Cam Laughlin and Tommy Mahoney posted a goal and an assist each for the winners while Matt Cowles won the Pepper Pot, recording 11 shots on goal for Assumption.
Norwich has already clinched the top spot in the upcoming conference tournament with a pair of wins achieved in very different fashions. On Friday night, the Cadets shutout Castleton 3-0 behind goals from Tyler Piacentini, Kevin Salvucci and Taeron Lewis. Cody Smith chipped in with a pair of assists and Ty Reichenbach stopped all 22 shots he faced for the shutout win.
On Saturday afternoon, the Cadets avenged their sole conference loss against Skidmore by skating to a 7-5 win. The game was a seesaw affair that had the visiting Thoroughbreds leading by a goal at the end of each of the first two periods. In the third period, Alec Brandrup, Jake Erickson and Paul Russell scored unanswered goals to erase a 5-4 deficit and Ty Reichenbach, who entered the game in relief of Braeden Ostepchuk in the second period, stopped all 10 shots he faced to pick up the win. William Pelletier recorded a goal and three assists for Norwich, which moved to 19-1-2 overall on the season.
In what was expected to be tight-checking and hard-fought contests, the matchups between travel partner pairings of Amherst and Hamilton against Trinity and Wesleyan ended with nothing really settled, as all four games ended in overtime ties.
Friday night saw Wesleyan out-special team Amherst with two power-play goals while rallying from a two-goal deficit. Walker Harris’ extra-man goal just 30 seconds into the third period tied the game and closed out the scoring in a game that saw the Cardinals carry a 31-26 shot advantage.
Over at Trinity, the Bantams went 0-for-7 on the power play as Hamilton made the hosts rally for a 2-2 tie on a goal by Ethan Holdaway late in the third period. Saturday, the teams switched playing partners but the outcomes were no different as Wesleyan tied Hamilton after surrendering a three-goal lead while Amherst and Trinity skated to a 1-1 tie, with Sean Orlando’s third-period goal for Trinity equaling David White’s first-period tally for Amherst.
Don’t look now, but here come the Plattsburgh Cardinals making a run in the second half as they swept a pair of home games this weekend with a solid total team game in taking down Buffalo State 2-1 on Friday night and Fredonia 3-1 on Saturday.
In Friday’s win over Buffalo State, Brady Pfaff and Joe Drabin’s first-period goals were all the offense the Cardinals would need as Brady Rouleau and the defense held the Bengals to just 23 shots on goal and killed all four Buffalo State power-play opportunities.
On Saturday afternoon, it was a similar formula as the Cardinals jumped out front 3-0, including a short-handed goal by Cole Stallard, and Rouleau was again solid in stopping 24 of 25 shots in a 3-1 win that moved Plattsburgh into a second-place tie with Buffalo State and Geneseo in the standings.
Jonas Toupal, Hobart: The week’s big news for the Statesmen was the announcement of their move to the NEHC next season, but on the ice, Hobart continued to build momentum in the ECAC West with a 7-3 win over Lebanon Valley on Friday night led by Toupal’s hat trick. Toupal scored all his goals in the first two periods, including the eventual game-winner as Hobart built a 4-1 lead before spreading the wealth on the score sheet in the third period.
Ryan Bloom, University of New England: The freshman has been a key addition between the Fleurent brothers on what may be the most dangerous line in the country at the D-III level. Bloom recorded four points in Thursday’s 6-1 win over Western New England that included a hat trick. Among the three goals was a highlight-reel goal showcasing a nifty toe-drag before Bloom unleashed a rocket wrist shot under the crossbar.
Jory Mullin, Neumann: The nation’s leading goal scorer moved his season total to 22 with a hat trick in Saturday’s 6-1 win over Nazareth. After scoring an even-strength goal in the second period, Mullin then added two short-handed goals in the third period to complete the hat trick. The two “shorties” moved Mullin into a tie with Plymouth State’s Ryan Stevens with five goals each while playing a man down, which leads the nation.
Bonus Tendy Biscuits
Stephen Klein, Middlebury: The Panthers goaltender made Mark McLellan’s second-period goal stand up as the game-winner by making 41 saves in a 1-0 win over Tufts. Klein stopped 14 and 21 shots respectively in the second and third periods to preserve the win.
Anthony D’Urso, Daniel Webster College: D’Urso played valiantly in a 3-0 loss against Massachusetts-Boston, surrendering just three goals on 74 shots faced in the game. D’Urso made 24 saves in the first period, 21 of 24 in the second, and 26 in the final period as UMB outshot DWC by a 74-23 margin for the game.
The calendar turns to February this week, so time and games are running out on teams that are looking to make their move, find their game, and start the magic run to a chance to play for conference and maybe national glory.