ROCHESTER & UTICA, N.Y. — The Wilkes University men’s ice hockey team headed up to New York this past weekend for two all important United Collegiate Hockey Conference (UCHC) games.
In the Colonels first contest of the weekend on Friday, Feb. 15, Wilkes faced Nazareth College at the Bill Gray’s Iceplex, coming away with a 1-1 draw.
The Colonels faced an early deficit in the game, as Nazareth’s Brad Pizzey put the lone goal on the scoreboard just over a minute into the game.
The rest of the first and second period would remain a defensive battle, as both Wilkes’ goalie Brandon Gordon and Nazareth’s Sean Kuhn stood strong between the pipes.
The first ten minutes of the third period went in favor of Nazareth, but the Colonels did not go away.
With less than six minutes left in the game, Brendan Logan tallied his sixth goal of the year for the Colonels, leveling the score to 1-1.
Neither Nazareth nor the Colonels could secure the win in regular time, pushing the game into a three-on-three overtime. Since neither team could get the job done in overtime, the game went into a shootout.
This marked the Colonels first-ever shootout, and it was a sudden death shootout at that.
Tyler Barrow scored the first penalty shot for the Colonels, and Gordon made the save on Nazareth.
“We just try to take every game one at a time,” Barrow said. “Eventually, the focus will be on the Utica game when the time comes.”
Both teams earned a point, but the Colonels gained one extra point being the winner of the OT shootout. This put Wilkes’ overall record at 16-6-2 and 11-4-2 in the UCHC entering Saturday.
The second game for the Colonels took place on Saturday night at the Adirondack Bank Center in Utica, N.Y.
Heading into the game, the Utica Pioneers were in first place in the UCHC with 41 points, Elmira was in second place with 38 points and the Colonels and Manhattanville both had 37 points in third and fourth place. Holding the fifth place spot was Nazareth with 27 points and in the sixth, and last playoff spot, was Neumann with 23 points.
The Colonels would head home from their game in Utica feeling defeated, as they fell 4-2 to the Pioneers in Saturday night’s contest.
The Colonels dealt with a brick wall in Gianluca Baggetta in goal for Utica, who made 28 saves and limited the Colonels to only scoring two goals.
The physicality between both teams ramped up quite a bit just minutes into the first period. Penalties also had a lot of implications in this game. After fighting off a Utica power play, the Colonels’ defense broke down and caused Utica to have a two-on-one in front of Wilkes’ Gordon.
Jarrod Fitzpatrick was the Pioneer able to find the back of the net, giving Utica a 1-0 lead.
Following the first goal, both teams got into a shooting frenzy, as the amount of shots increased and so did the tensions.
With just under two minutes remaining in the first period, Barrow slashed Shawn Lynch in front of the Colonels bench after the whistle blew the puck dead.
Lynch took exception to this and began taking shots at Barrow’s head. Barrow got a two-minute penalty, but Lynch got a game misconduct for ten minutes. By rule, this disqualified Lynch from the remainder of the game.
The Colonels were unable to score on the four-on-four opportunities in the final minutes of the first period.
Entering the second period, the Colonels still had over two minutes of power play time, although they were unable to capitalize on the opportunities.
Later on in the second period on another Colonel power play, Tyson Araujo was able to tie things up at 1-1.
“It was great at the moment to level things up,” said Araujo, reflecting on scoring the tying goal. “Unfortunately, the outcome of the game wasn’t what we wanted.”
Donald Flynn was called for an unsportsmanlike penalty while celebrating the Colonels goal, which proved to be a costly penalty for the Colonels as this led to a barrage of goals for Utica.
Less than a minute later, Utica capitalized on the shorthanded Colonels. Josh Haskins was able to find the back of the net and get the puck past Brandon Gordon, putting Utica in the lead 2-1.
Only 45 seconds later, Utica would capitalize on another Colonel penalty. This time, it would be a penalty on Danny Reidel for hooking.
Connor Landrigan buried the puck in the back of the net as he stood on the left side of Gordon, which was exposed after receiving a quick pass from Daniel Fritz.
Shortly after the halfway point in the second period, Utica exposed Gordon again and knocked the lead up to 4-1.
Coach Brett Riley called a timeout after this goal to regroup the team.
Finally, the Colonels were able to shift the momentum onto their side, as Taylor Bommarito was able to sneak the puck past Baggetta, cutting the Colonels’ deficit to two goals and making the score 4-2.
Going into the third period, Riley would not have been surprised to see the Colonels ramp things up and give an effort to come back.
“We’ve come back all year, so we just wanted to play a five minute game and get the better end each five minutes,” said Riley going into the third period. “I thought we did that, the pucks didn’t really go our way, but we’re really proud with the way the guys battled back against a good team in a hostile environment.”
Despite a valiant effort in the third period, the Colonels were unable to come back against Utica and fell short 4-2.
This loss put the Colonels at 16-7-2 overall and 11-5-2 in the UCHC.
The loss against Utica also knocked the Colonels out of potentially getting home ice advantage and a first round bye game in the playoffs.