WORCESTER, Mass. - Senior Rich Vega (New Milford, Conn.) scored his team-leading 11th goal of the season in the third period Sunday night, breaking a 3-3 tie and handing Plymouth State College's ice hockey team a 4-3 triumph over Worcester State College in an ECAC Northeast Conference battle.
The Panthers had a 2-0 lead after one period, but saw the Lancers come back with three unanswered goals to take a 3-2 third-period lead. But PSC defenseman John Power (Reading, Mass.) got the equalizer with 12:25 to play to make it 3-3, and Vega notched the game-winner less than a minute later, with 11:29 remaining.
The goal gives Vega 95 career points - 39 goals and 56 assists in 90 games.
The Panther victory sets up a showdown this Tuesday night (Feb. 22) in the regular season finale at Waterville Valley (7:00 p.m.) between PSC and Western New England College. The Panthers and Bears are currently tied for the eighth and final play-off spot in the ECAC Northeast, with Salve Regina University one point ahead. A PSC win or tie leaves Salve Regina as the odd team out, while a WNEC victory Tuesday leaves PSC out of the post-season for the first time in three years.
PSC took a 1-0 lead Sunday against Worcester State when two Panthers notched their first goals of the season. Freshman Chad Fitzpatrick (North Quincy, Mass.) put PSC on the board first at 11:51, with Tim Conroy (Cohasset, Mass.) picking up the assist. It went to 2-0 when Tom Beaulieu (Hudson, NH) set up junior Matt McPhee (Plymouth, Mass.) for his first of the season and fourth of his career.
WSC battled back with second period goals by Fran Keefe and Chris Susi. The Lancers got their first lead of the game on Susi's power play goal at 5:51 of the third period, but Power tied it up for PSC less than two minutes later, setting up Vega's game-winner.
Plymouth State outshot Worcester State by a 46-39 margin. PSC sophomore Larry Forgue (Nashua, NH) made 36 saves in the winning effort, while WSC's Paul Sundeen made 42 saves.
PSC is now 6-11-2 overall and 5-5-2 in the ECAC Northeast under second-year head coach Mike Bonelli, while Worcester State drops to 9-12-1 and 3-8-1.
The opening round of the ECAC Northeast Conference play-offs are set for Saturday (Feb. 26), with the top four seeds hosting the bottom four seeds at the respective campus sites. The Northeast Conference Tournament winner receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
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