East wrap: Jan. 29

Now is the time to make your run. Play your game and make sure you are doing all the little things on the ice to be successful. Points are all-important, and teams battling for playoff position and seeding are playing like it is already the playoffs. Some conference leaders like Plymouth State and Norwich ramped up their games a bit, while Endicott and Utica were bitten by teams that just played better. The stretch run is already here. Here are some of the highlights from last week’s play.

The top four of Endicott, Salve Regina, University of New England, and Nichols has remained intact, but the teams all got a bit closer with Endicott dropping a pair to Salve Regina over the weekend. Just four points separate first from fourth, so the battles for seeding and home ice are going to be interesting over the final three weeks of the regular season.

Salve Regina once again leveraged great goaltending from Blake Wojtala and consistent offensive production from their top line of Danny Eruzione, Paul Boutoussov, and Jack Billings to take a pair from the conference leaders, 5-1 and 6-2. Boutoussov scored three goals in Thursday’s road win, while Billings and Eruzione chipped in with two goals and five points in the Saturday home win for the Seahawks, who are now tied with Endicott at the top of the standings.

UNE and Nichols both kept pace with a pair of wins each. The Nor’easters took down Becker 9-1 and 7-3, with Brady Fleurent picking up eight points in the two games to surpass his brother Trevor as the all-time leading scorer at UNE. Nichols also won a pair of games against Johnson & Wales, 4-2 and 5-4. The Bison built an early lead on Saturday off two goals from T.J. Roche, but had to fight off a furious rally by the Wildcats for the one-goal win.

Post went 1-0-1 in a two-game set with Stonehill over the weekend. Goaltender Brandon Brown made 60 saves on Friday night to help earn a 2-2 tie. Noah Wild’s goal in the third period gave Post the lead, but Ryan Smith tied it for Stonehill. On Saturday, Post was again outshot by a wide margin, but Brown made 46 saves and the offense scored five times for the 5-4 win. Tyler Hackett scored the game-winner and picked up two assists to lead Post to their second win of the season.

Plymouth State has very quietly gone on a run and created some separation at the top of the standings. The Panthers have won seven in a row to open a nine-point lead on their nearest competitor. Just two points separate second place from fifth place, so some great battles are upcoming for seeding.

Plymouth State needed a late goal from Drake Longaker on Thursday night to grab two points from Framingham State, but made things a bit easier on themselves on Saturday. Against Westfield State, the Panthers ran off to a 4-1 lead in the first period and cruised to an 8-2 win behind two goals from Chis Zuccaro.

Salem State saw second-period goals from Ryan Wilkinson and Michael Casale stand up for a 2-0 win over Framingham State. Jason Pucciarelli picked up the shutout, stopping all 24 shots he faced.

Worcester State and Fitchburg State battled to a 4-4 tie on Saturday, with the Lancers rallying from a two-goal deficit in the third period to earn the point. Tim Drevitch scored a hat trick, including two goals in the final stanza to bring Worcester State back. Tyler Warila scored twice for the Falcons and added an assist in the hard-fought game that left both teams tied in the standings.

Assumption took a pair of games, 4-0 and 4-3, over Franklin Pierce. On Friday night Cam Laughlin, Peter McDonagh, and John Chamberlain all had a goal and an assist each in the win that leveled their conference record at 5-5-1. On Saturday, McDonagh and Chamberlain again figured prominently in the scoring as both scored important goals late in the second and midway in the third period to give Assumption a lead that the Ravens could not overcome.

After a 2-2 overtime tie on Friday night, St. Michael’s used two goals from Sam D’Antuono and 35 saves from Chris Johnson to down Southern New Hampshire, 4-1, on Saturday. The win moves the Purple Knights to 7-3-1 in the conference, while the Penmen slip to 4-4-2 in league play.

Norwich and Hobart showed they are ramping up for the final month of the season with another two-win weekend. The Cadets welcomed the goal scoring of Kevin Salvucci back to the lineup as the senior scored a hat trick in a 5-3 win over Babson on Friday night. On Saturday, Jake Erickson scored the only goal of the third period to break a 4-4 tie and help the Cadets past Massachusetts-Boston, 5-4. Braeden Ostepchuk made 36 saves in the win.

Hobart continued its run of good play with a pair of shutout wins over New England College and Southern Maine. Alexander Connal picked up both shutouts, making a combined 37 saves to move his record to 8-3-1 on the season. The weekend sweep moved the Statesmen into second place, three points behind Norwich.

The one seemingly sure thing in the conference has been the play of Trinity, which again recorded a four-point weekend with wins over Amherst and Hamilton, 5-2 and 3-1. The Bantams now enjoy a six-point advantage in the standings over Connecticut College, but only five points separate second from seventh place, which should make for some interesting hockey in February.

The conference’s surprise team has been Jim Ward’s Camels, who now sit in second place after collecting three points on the road in a tie with Middlebury and key road win at Williams. After twice coming back from one-goal deficits, Brenden Russ scored a power-play goal with just over two and half minutes remaining in regulation. Connor Rodericks made 37 saves for the win as the Ephs outshot the visitors, 39-18.

Geneseo had yet another three-point weekend following a 1-1 tie with Potsdam and a 7-4 win over rival Plattsburgh on Saturday night. Tyson Empey led the way for the Knights with a five-point night on two goals and three assists.

Oswego took a pair of games from Morrisville, 4-0 and 4-2. On Saturday, Stevie Ray Adams scored twice in the third period to bring the Mustangs within a goal, but Cameron Berry notched his 10th goal short-handed into an empty net to preserve the win and weekend sweep for the Lakers.

Buffalo State also swept their travel partner over the weekend with a pair of one-goal decisions against Fredonia, 6-5 and 4-3. On Friday night, the Bengals built leads of 4-1 and 6-2, only to see Fredonia battle back. Goals by Victor Tracy and Jon Carlson late in the third period weren’t quite enough to complete the comeback as Buffalo state held on for the one-goal win. On Saturday, Ian Sylves made 36 saves as Fredonia outshot the Bengals, 39-21, and built an early 2-0 lead that they couldn’t hold on to. Mac Wood led the comeback for Buffalo State, scoring twice.

Utica had an easy night on Friday, posting a 6-0 win over Bryn Athyn, but found a different opponent waiting on Saturday night in a 5-1 loss at Elmira. Forward Nick Ford scored twice and added an assist as the home team broke open a 2-1 game with three unanswered goals in the third period for the important league win. Elmira also won on Friday night, picking up a 3-2 win over Nazareth

Stevenson picked up two conference wins in downing King’s on Friday, 3-1, before taking out Manhattanville, 4-3, on Saturday. The Valiants have had trouble holding on to third-period leads, and Saturday night was no different as Alfred Panelin-Borg tied the game at 3-3 before Nick Gray scored the game-winner on a power play with an assist from Panelin-Borg to give the Mustangs a 4-3 win and move them to the top of both the MAC and UCHC standings.

Three Biscuits
Paul Boutoussov, Salve Regina: He scored a hat trick in the Seahawks’ 5-1 win over Endicott on Thursday night. Boutoussov’s two third-period goals helped seal the important road win for Salve Regina.
Kevin Salvucci, Norwich: The Cadets’ forward notched a hat trick, including the game-winning goal in the third period in an important road win over Babson.
Tyson Empey, Geneseo: Empey scored a pair of goals and added three assists in the Knights’ 7-4 win over rival Plattsburgh on Saturday night.

It is hard to believe, but the calendar is already turning to February and the sprint to the end of the regular season is on.