Seniors lead men’s hockey to 9-3 victory over St. Michael’s

The seniors definitely made their last home game count.

Playing in what would be their last game at Lansing Chapman Rink, four Eph seniors combined for 14 points in a 9-3 drubbing of St. Michael’s on Saturday. Despite the offensive show, though, the highlight of the day came from a pint-sized goalie with a colossal heart. For the second time this year, Matt Starkey ’05 made an appearance in goal. Entering the game to the Rudy theme song, Starkey made four saves as he shut out St. Michael’s over the final 4:48.

The Ephs (14-8-2, 12-5-2 in the NESCAC) finished fifth in the NESCAC and will travel to Trinity next weekend for the first round of the conference tournament.

Rebounding from a tough overtime loss against Norwich the night before, the Ephs dominated St. Michael’s from the opening face-off. Tri-captain Dan Cotuno ’02 had a goal and four assists and line-mate Andrew Beasley ’02 scored twice and assisted on two other goals as the Ephs tallied their highest scoring total of the season.

“Any time something draws to a close, it’s an added motivation,” said Beasley, who is now tied with Wes Fox ’03 for the team lead with 12 goals. “We’ve had a great season so far and we have to make every game count from here on out.”

St. Michael’s had actually crept to within two goals at 5-3 in the third, but Beasley’s second goal of the game midway through the final period was the first of four unanswered goals by the Ephs to close out the game.

Jake Clapton ’05 added two goals as Williams peppered two St. Michael’s goalies with 48 shots. Dan Houck ’02 and Alex Garceau ’02 combined for five assists, with three coming from the former. Fox, Jabe Bergeron ’04, Brian Teixeira ’04 and Steve Baldasarri ’05 also scored for the Ephs.

Ben Fash ’04 was solid in the net for the Ephs, stopping 18 of 21 shots to earn his seventh win of the season.

The previous night was not so nice for the Ephs.

Kurtis McLean scored three minutes into overtime as fifth-ranked Norwich defeated Williams 3-2 Friday night. A win would have almost guaranteed the Ephs a home playoff game.

“It’s a tough one to lose, especially it being in overtime,” said Brent Kozel ’02. “Even if we had gotten a point we would have been in good shape.”

After a sluggish first period by both teams, Norwich (21-4-0) scored two quick goals in the second by Chris Petracco and Mario Chinelli. Two beautiful cross-ice passes by McLean and Phil Acoin set up the second goal.

“We came out flat in the first period and they took it to us and we spotted them two goals,” said Kozel. “You can’t do that against any team, especially a good team like those guys.”

As they have done all year though, the Ephs buckled down and responded. Less than a minute after Norwich’s second goal, Cotuno took a crossing pass from Houck and his one-timer from the top of the left circle beat Norwich goalie Randy Hevey.

Late in the period, with Ephs forward Josh Truitt ’04 in the penalty box, Kozel picked off a pass in his own zone and got it up to Cotuno near center ice. Cotuno then found Beasley streaking to the net, and Beasley beat Hevey through the legs to tie it up.

“I was actually thinking about clearing it, but then I heard Danny [Cotuno] yell, and I got it to him,” Kozel said.

Like the opening frame, the third period went scoreless, although Norwich dominated the offensive zone and had the Ephs reeling. Williams attempted only four shots on goal in the third.

In overtime, with the Ephs seemingly playing for a tie, Norwich finally got the game-winner. Paul Mattucci fired a high shot from the blue-line that hit goalie Mike Aroesty ’03 in the chest. However, Aroesty could not control the rebound, and McLean tapped the puck in, sending the Norwich bench and their faithful crowd into a frenzy.

In a defensive battle, Norwich out-shot the Ephs 23-16. Despite the lack of offense, both teams let golden opportunities slip through their fingers.

With 8:07 left in the first, Aroesty, who made 20 saves, made a sprawling glove save to deny Vadim Beliaev of a sure goal. Midway through the third, Aroesty denied Beliaev again, this time on a breakaway that kept the game tied.

Craig Wadman ’03 had a great chance for the Ephs late in the second, but he hit the crossbar in his one-on-one attempt.

The Ephmen now face a tough test in the Trinity Bantams, a team that beat Williams 4-1 a week ago. To win, the Ephs must be prepared to play a much more physical game.

“We’re going to have to play the body better,” said Beasley. “Last time, they took the body to us.”

Much of the dirty work will fall in the hands of the defense, led by Kozel, the Ephs’ top enforcer. Bergeron, Williams’ biggest forward, also knows the importance of playing a more physical brand of hockey.

“We have to do a better job of slowing them down,” said Bergeron, who complements the Ephs’ tremendous team speed with his punishing, aggressive style. “We have to lay more hits and play tighter in the defensive zone.”

Last year, the Ephs were one-and-done in the playoffs, losing to Amherst 3-0. But with a hungrier, more cohesive unit this year, a run at the title reamins a possibility.