MIH: Wilkes wins MAC with win over No. 14 Stevenson

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MIH: Wilkes wins MAC with win over No. 14 Stevenson

Captains Michael Gurska and Tyson Araujo pose with the MAC banner.

Captains Michael Gurska and Tyson Araujo pose with the MAC banner.

Ben Mandell

Captains Michael Gurska and Tyson Araujo pose with the MAC banner.

Ben Mandell

Ben Mandell

Captains Michael Gurska and Tyson Araujo pose with the MAC banner.

Ben Mandell, Co-Sports Editor

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WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — Wilkes finally had a statement win with a 6-0 victory over No. 14 Stevenson at home. The Colonels clinched the MAC title as well, holding a perfect record against the four MAC teams.

“It’s a big step for us. We were in a position to win it last year and the fact that we were there is a testament to Brett Riley,” Wilkes coach Tyler Hynes said. “I would be remiss if I didn’t bring him up because he built this team and I am lucky enough to coach them.”

Wilkes has now defeated Stevenson and Lebanon Valley twice. They now have to defeat cross-town rival King’s once more to remain perfect in MAC play.

“It definitely feels good but there is way more to play for,” forward Tyler Barrow said. “We are going to enjoy this, but it is back to work next week.”

More importantly for the Colonels, they have pulled back into first place in the United Collegiate Hockey Conference (UCHC) with a 11-2-0 record with five games left to play.

“I’m hoping this is just a step for us,” Hynes said. “We have our eyes on bigger things and that doesn’t mean that we won’t enjoy this because that was a heck of a team we just beat.”

Wilkes was stifled on the offensive end in the opening period, as goaltender Ryan Kenny for Stevenson stood on his head, making multiple acrobatic saves. The Colonels continued to grind and broke through with five goals in the second period.

“I thought we played better in the first period than the second,” Hynes said. “The pucks just started going in for us in that second period. And once we got that first one, we loosened up a bit.”

Donald Flynn opened the scoring with a power play goal three minutes into the second period. The goal was set up by Nick Fea, who took the puck from behind his own goal and skated coast-to-coast with it. Once he made it to the opposite end behind Stevenson’s goal, he delivered a perfect pass to Flynn in the slot and he did the rest.

The period calmed down until the final five minutes. The Colonels’ captain, Michael Gurska teed up a shot from the high slot that found the top left corner of the net.

Not long after, Jay Gallagher scored on a deflection, just 25 seconds later. Gallagher got his stick in the way of a Dylan Kuipers shot and the redirection was too much for Kenny.

The next two goals came from reigning USCHO rookie of the year, Barrow, in impressive fashion. The first came off a turnover in the neutral zone. Billy Berry intercepted a Mustang pass and he turned and flipped it to Barrow. Already behind the defense, he made a move on Kenny and slid the puck through the helpless goaltender’s legs to give the Colonels a 4-0 lead.

Barrow wasn’t finished though, as he would capitalize on another Stevenson mistake.

“It was kind of a broken play, Berry picked it up in the slot and threw it in space in the middle,” Barrow said. “Their two guys were closing in and at the last second, I was able to give it a tiny, little poke off the toe of my stick. It gave me a little extra room and the goalie came out. I just moved it by him and shot it.”

Through the first two periods, Michael Paterson-Jones only needed to stop a combined 10 shots.

“You just really have to try and stay focused on the puck,” Paterson-Jones said. “Towards the end of the game they were starting to fly guys into the zone. But honestly it is a good problem to have trying to stay focused because the puck is not coming into the zone. If it isn’t there, then they can’t score.”

The Colonels continued to play strong in the third period and Gallagher added his second goal of the game. The puck found him in the slot, and he was able to generate a clean shot that made it into the back of the Stevenson net.

Flynn, Fea and Barrow have been scorching hot for the Colonels. The three now sit in first, second and fourth in the UCHC for points and Flynn is averaging over 2 points per game. He now has 23 goals, which not only leads the conference but also leads the entire country. He sits in second in overall scoring.

Barrow has picking things up the last couple of weeks. In the six games he has played since returning from an upper body injury he has six goals.

“That burst that he shows is what he brings to our bench,” Hynes said. “He is a real spark plug for us and you could tell from his first shift that he was going tonight.”

The Colonels still control their destiny in the UCHC. They still have tough games on the road at Nazareth, Utica, and Manhattanville. They will also host King’s and Neumann out their home schedule before the UCHC playoff tournament.

Wilkes’ next game comes Thursday, when they host King’s at the Toyota SportsPlex at 7:30 p.m.