Jim McLaughlin, Sports Editor
The Utica College men’s ice hockey team came away with a win and a tie against No. 14 Neumann University this past weekend.
After losing three straight games, the Pioneers were looking to get back on track at a crucial point in the season, considering the rest of its schedule is conference play. UC did not back down from the challenge after a scoreless first period, but things changed after a power-play opportunity for the Pioneers.
Freshman Justin Derlago scored the first goal for the Pioneers after a rebound shot coming off of the stick of fellow freshman Alex Roberts. Sophomore Kevin Valenti also assisted on the goal, making it his tenth of the year. The Pioneers went into the locker room after the second period with a 1-0 lead.
UC came out for the third period with the momentum on its side. Junior Luc Boby was able to find the back of the net over a minute into the third to give his team a two-goal cushion. It was Boby’s first goal of the season and Roberts and sophomore Brett Szajner were credited with the assist.
However, Neumann did not go away quietly as they brought it back within one goal seven minutes later with still enough time on the clock to tie the game. The Pioneers maintained their composure and finished the game strong even though Neumann played with an extra skater with a minute and a half left. UC won the first game 2-1 and freshman goalie Michael Fredrick finished with 29 saves for the night.
Head coach Gary Heenan was pleased with the way the team played considering the Pioneers killed all four of Neumann’s power-play opportunities.
“That was the key to the win,” Heenan said. “We are confident that we will win PK’s [penalty-kills] when they come around throughout the game.”
Heenan was also pleased with how the team responded after Neumann brought it within one in the third period.
“We were resilient,” he said. “It was nice to see us on the other side of things for a change.”
The rematch against Neumann was set for the following night and the Knights were able to get on the board early on in the first period. Over a minute into the game senior Jon Low slid one past Fredrick to take the lead 1-0. The Pioneers were not able to find the back of the net in the first period and went into the locker room down by one.
Throughout the weekend both teams played with a chip on their shoulder which led to 17 penalties. UC was able to take advantage of these opportunities and get on the board from a power-play opportunity. Szajner tied the game 1-1 off the passes from Roberts and Valenti. The Knights continued to fight and were able to find the back of the net at the end of the second period to regain the lead 2-1.
Although Neumann had the lead, Heenan told his team this is where they want to be in these type of games.
“It was the third period at home and that should be automatic for us to get back in the game,” he said. “The crowd was able to get us into it and that helped.”
Heenan was right as the Pioneers were able to score off another power-play opportunity to tie the game back at two. Sophomore Dalton Carter found the back of the net off the passes from sophomore Anthony McVeigh and freshman Hayden Dawes. Both teams were not able to find the back of the net at the end of regulation or in overtime, to end the game in a 2-2 tie.
“It was one of our better weekends,” Heenan said. “Guys were competing and ready to get after an ECAC West rival.”
The Pioneers will travel to Geneva, New York for a two game series against nationally ranked No. 3 Hobart College for another ECAC West matchup this weekend.