Jim McLaughlin, Sports Editor
The Utica College men’s ice hockey team used two strong finishes to sweep ECAC West rival Manhattanville last Friday and Saturday night.
The Pioneers were set to host Manhattanville at the Utica Memorial Auditorium, where UC has lost only two games this whole season. However, despite the home ice advantage, it was Manhattanville that scored first in the game. Senior Matt Coleman found the back of the net to give the Valiants the early 1-0 lead.
UC came into the second period down one goal and was looking for a spark to get the momentum on their side. Unfortunately, the Pioneers were at a disadvantage when sophomore Vince Stefan received a penalty for goaltender interference.
UC was down a skater and down a goal five minutes into the period. Senior assistant captain Joel Wetmore took a pass and moved his way in front of the goalie where he ripped it past him and tied the game up 1-1. Junior captain Kevin Kirisits and sophomore Anthony McVeigh assisted Wetmore on the goal.
Manhattanville continued to battle to regain the lead and when the opportunity presented itself, they capitalized. Freshman Cory Anderson scored the goal to recapture the lead off the passes from junior Tanner Hicks and freshman Axel Walltott. A shot off the stick of McVeigh tied the game up 2-2 before the two teams headed into the locker room prior to the start of the third period.
The momentum from McVeigh’s goal carried through the start of the third period. Freshman Alex Roberts put one through the pipes a minute and a half into the period as the Pioneers took the lead for the first time of the night.
The team is appreciative of the support they get from the Utica faithful.
“There’s a buzz in the building every night,” Wetmore said. “Our loyal fans never let us down and it’s great to get all the support.”
Less than three minutes into the third period the Pioneers were able to register yet another goal from freshman Adam Moody to put their lead to two goals. Sophomore Mikhail Bushinski and Stefan assisted for Moody’s goal.
The game began to get chippy as both teams found themselves making trips to the penalty box throughout the third period. Manhattanville began to lose its composure and began sending players to the penalty box. In fact, the Valiants received nine penalties during the last period of regulation.
Bushinski believes the aggressive play is what comes with playing in the ECAC West.
“An ECAC West weekend is always a tough and spirited weekend,” Bushinski said. “But we were able to get a big win out of it.”
The numerous penalties brought opportunities for the Pioneers to score another goal to add to their lead. Moody found the back of the net again on a power play and Bushinski and sophomore Brett Szajner were credited with the assists.
The Pioneers went on to win the first game against the Valiants, but had a tough task ahead of them to do it twice in two days.
The second game proved to be tough as there were only three goals scored throughout the whole game. The Pioneers continued to be a confident bunch as they scored the first goal of the game. Junior Trent Samuel-Thomas gave the Pioneers the lead for his first goal of the season. Senior Nick Miglio and freshman Shawn Lynch helped Samuel-Thomas on the play to make it a 1-0 game.
The first goal didn’t seem to phase the Valiants as they scored a minute and a half later. Sophomore Charlie Ryde put the puck behind freshman goaltender Michael Fredrick to tie the game up 1-1. The two team remained tied throughout regulation.
However, in overtime, freshman Shawn Lynch scored the first goal of his career with just 17 seconds left.
The Pioneers travel to Elmira College this weekend for a two game set against the Soaring Eagles. The first game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. on Friday night.