An Evan Chlanda goal at 2:05 of the second period was all the scoring at the Utica Memorial Auditorium, as the home team defeated Potsdam, 1-0.
“It was a good hockey game,” Utica coach Gary Heenan said. “They kept it close all night where we got nervous in the end. We should have buried some more chances where we could feel more comfortable. Credit to them. We don’t feel great about that one, but we’ll take the win at home.”
“Two good teams competing hard,” Potsdam coach Chris Bernard said. “It was close all the way through. Something we can build on.”
Nick Therrien got the shutout with 30 saves.
“We keep making four, five, or six big mistakes where we give up key scoring opportunities,” Heenan said. “Fortunately for us, our goaltenders have been playing well. And he did tonight. He made a couple of big saves.”
Potsdam’s backup, Kevin McFarland, got the start for the Bears, and played superbly, making 42 saves.
“Sensational,” Bernard said. “Not superb, sensational. He stepped up for us tonight. He’s no different than any other guy on the team. We got a bunch of kids who are gutsy when we challenge them. They step up when we ask them to, and he did tonight.”
“Their goaltender played phenomenal,” Heenan said. “All the credit goes to him. Not a lot of rebounds, kept everything in front of him.”
Utica outshot Potsdam in the first period, 14-8, but the Bears had a few better scoring chances. But nothing ever went into the net for either team, so the most important stat remained scoreless.
Utica broke the ice at 2:05 of the second period. Evan Chlanda at the front of the net knocked in a rebound on a shot from Tim Coffman, which barely crossed over the line.
“Me and Coffman were coming over the blue line,” Chlanda said. “I gave him a little drop pass at the blue line. He was shooting at the goal. I was going in for the rebound. It hit off the inside of my leg, and I shot it in.”
That was Coffman’s 71st career assist, tying a school record.
The Pioneers had a chance to make it 2-0 when Jon Gaffney went in on a short-handed breakaway. However, he was not able to get a good shot off, wasting the opportunity.
Midway through the third period, Chris Santiago hit the post in an attempt to give his team a two-goal lead.
“We’ve been scoring quite a few goals,” Heenan said. “We’ve been putting guys on breakaways that score goals for us. Hopefully, just an off night for guys with their sticks. The game was close because we couldn’t finish.”
Potsdam was provided with a gift-wrapped last chance when Utica was called for too many men at 14:06. The Bears had excellent chances, but could not convert. At the end of the penalty, Coffman took advantage of a Potsdam giveaway and went in on a breakaway. McFarland held his ground, stuffing Coffman’s shot.
The Bears then gave up their waning chances when Matt Viola took an interference penalty with 1:50 left. Potsdam did pull their goalie, but the manpower shortage was too much to overcome, as they nearly gave up an empty-net goal twice.
Utica (7-3-0) stays home to face Salve Regina in the New York SASH Teddy Bear Toss game. Any fan who brings a stuffed animal to toss on the ice after the first Pioneers’ goal which will be donated to charity will receive free admission.
Potsdam (5-5-0) is done for the semester. The Bears return to action New Year’s Eve in the Middlebury Classic facing Southern Maine.