Abin Boris, Sports Editor
The Utica College Pioneers men’s hockey team advanced to the semi-final round of the UCHC Tournament last night after a convincing 9-0 win against the Manhattanville Valiants. The Valiants, who came into the game with a record of 0-3-0, put up a fight in the first period of the game behind their goaltender Alexei Masanko who got his first starting nod of the season.
Masanko was able to keep the Utica off of the scoreboard in the first period with 17 saves. He eventually was pulled in the third period after the Pioneers blew the lead open, but, credit must be given where credit is due, and Masanko deserves his recognition.
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Masanko stepped into his first game of the season against the number one seeded Pioneers in a win or go home situation and he ended his night with a total of 38 saves against the Pioneers’ highly potent offense.
Heading into the second period, the game was still up for grabs as it was knotted at zero. Utica, however, did not let it stay that way for long. Dylan McMahon, one of the four first-year players that were brought in by head coach Gary Heenan this year was able to break the scoreless tie to start the never-ending onslaught of goals from the Pioneers.
Utica went into the second intermission with a 5-0 lead. John Moncovich, the sophomore winger, was able to grab two of those five goals with one of them being on the powerplay, a unit that was firing at nearly 40 percent heading into the game.
“We had really good puck movement and did a really good job of retrieving pucks,” Moncovich said talking about the powerplay. “When you do those two things right, power-play success tends to come.”
Another storyline that emerged from the 9-0 victory is the role the first-year players had. McMahon, Jayson Dobay and Blake Holmes were able to tally points for Utica in the semi-final matchup.
For McMahon, being able to contribute in the playoffs is a huge confidence booster and something he hopes he can build off of not only the rest of this playoff season but into the future seasons.
“It was definitely a great feeling to be able to help my team out with two goals,” he said. “Definitely gives me a lot of confidence heading into tomorrow’s game which is always good, but still staying focused as it’s do or die every night and we know whoever we play tomorrow will do all they can to stop us.”
The Pioneers will now get ready to face off against Elmira tomorrow, a team that they have seen twice this year and in both contests, have come away with the victory. With the short turnaround, the Pioneers must stay ready. Both Moncovich and McMahon understand that heading into this semi-final game.
“We just need to take care and listen to our bodies,” Moncovich said. “Make sure we’re eating right, drinking water and getting the right amount of sleep so we can come into Friday feeling the best we can.”
Catch all the live-action of the UCHC Tournament and the Pioneers at ucpioneers.com.