Men’s ice hockey overwhelms non-conference foes

Men’s ice hockey (10-2-2, 7-0-2 in the NESCAC) trounced formidable competition in its final weekend of non-conference play, defeating Plattsburgh State last Saturday night and Manhattanville last Friday. Down 1-0 early against Manhattanville, the men responded with four unanswered goals to post a convincing 4-1 win at Lansing Chapman Rink. The men then used this momentum to beat nationally ranked, No. 3 Plattsburgh State 5-1. After returning from winter break, the men went 3-2 with important conference wins over Trinity and Wesleyan after their first loss on the season to Hobart. Before winter break, the men continued their dominance with four wins and a tie.

Plattsburgh State’s high ranking provided a marquee non-conference matchup for the men. “They’re clearly one of the best teams in the country, but we think we are also a top team like that,” co-captain Paul Steinig ’14 said. The Ephs proved that and then some on Saturday.

The first period began in a stalemate as both sides mustered a few shots on goal that were harmlessly turned aside by the goaltenders. However, a tripping penalty put the men on the power play halfway through the first period and the Ephs looked poised to strike first. On the man

Craig Kitto '15 nets a hat trick against No. 3 Plattsburgh State on Saturday in Lansing Chapman Rink
Photo Courtesy of Sports Information
Craig Kitto ’15 nets a hat trick against No. 3 Plattsburgh State on Saturday in Lansing Chapman Rink

advantage, Greg Johnson ’16 created the first quality scoring opportunity of the game as he rifled a shot from the point that clamored off the post before it was smothered by Cardinal netminder Mathieu Cadieux. The Cardinals killed off the rest of the penalty successfully and the period elapsed with the contest remaining scoreless.

Plattsburgh State came onto the ice in the second period flying, determined to notch the first goal of the game. Just 19 seconds in, Cardinal Dillan Fox sprung free for a breakaway, but he was denied by both the left pad of Sean Dougherty ’15 and the flailing stick of George Hunkele ’17. The latter sent Hunkele to the penalty box for a two minute tripping infraction. Dougherty and the Ephs’ penalty-kill unit crucially thwarted the Cardinal attack and began to turn the tide in the men’s favor as the second period progressed.

At the 10:40 mark of the second period, the men’s attack came to fruition as Luke Stickel ’17 netted his first career goal, ripping a shot past Cadieux to give the men an important one-goal advantage. Just one minute later, the men doubled their lead as fellow first-year Sam Gray ’17 banged home a loose puck in front of the net, with assists from Johnson and Tyler Young ’17. With just under one minute to play, the Ephs further extended their lead to an overwhelming three-goal advantage as leading goal-scorer Craig Kitto ’15 beautifully put the puck in the back of the net off assists from Zander Masucci ’16 and co-captain Nick Anderson ’14. Dougherty continued to skillfully blank the Cardinals for the remainder of the period.

With a three-goal advantage, the Ephs were on the defensive throughout much of the third period. With two men down early due to penalties, Dougherty masterfully robbed multiple Cardinals of goals down the stretch, with saves that included a sprawling glove save against an open net. Desperate for a goal, the Cardinals aggressively pulled their goalie with over three minutes left in order to give them a man advantage. This strategy initially paid dividends as Plattsburgh State netted their first goal of the game with just under two minutes remaining. The Ephs quickly responded, however, and put the game out of reach with two empty-net goals to put the final game tally at 5-1.

Dougherty finished the game with an astonishing 35 saves to Cadieux’s 16.

“The whole game was a huge team win with great goaltending and defense and some huge offensive plays, so to win in a complete fashion like that against a great team was huge,” Steinig said.

On Friday, the Ephs took on Manhattanville and found themselves down 1-0 early after giving up a power-play goal just 3:36 into the first period. Manhattanville’s defenseman Adam Young beat a helpless Dougherty with just a second remaining in the power-play.  As the period wore on, the Ephs got two chances of their own on the man advantage but failed to convert either of them.  In a notable scoring opportunity, netminder Brian Fleming slid across the crease to snatch Hunkele’s wrist shot mid-air. The period ended with a 1-0 Manhattanville advantage

The men brought pressure to begin the second period but were consistently turned away by Fleming in net. A break for the Ephs came in the middle of the period as an interference call put the men on the power play. On the man advantage, puck movement was swift and several offensive chances were created. As the penalty winded down, Frankie Mork ’17 muscled a shot through the Manhattanville defense to where Hunkele was waiting backdoor to artfully redirect the puck into the net, knotting the contest at one goal apiece.

The game remained tied until the 13:03 mark of the third period. Mork fired a shot off the crossbar and remained persistent as the rebound was gathered by Johnson and fed back to Mork. Mork then beat Fleming and put the Ephs ahead in the contest for good. Minutes later, Anderson extended the men’s lead on a beautiful breakaway move, sliding the puck from his forehand to his backhand before putting it between the legs of Fleming. Once again on a power play, with just over six minutes left in regulation, the Ephs added their fourth unanswered goal as Matt Doyle ’14 tipped in a Johnson shot from the point. The third period ended with the score at 4-1 in favor of the Ephs.

The men currently sit in first place in the NESCAC standings with an undefeated record. After beginning 2014 with a disappointing loss to non-conference opponent Hobart on Jan. 3, the men responded with important NESCAC victories over Trinity and Wesleyan, the former coming on a frigid but memorable night at Fenway Park in Boston, Mass. on Jan. 7. Before winter break the men won three conference games and tied a fourth, including an important 1-0 decision over rival Amherst on Dec. 7.

After the non-conference weekend, the men re-enter NESCAC play this weekend, where they travel to Colby on Friday and to Bowdoin on Saturday, as they look to maintain their undefeated conference record.