Panthers come back to tie WSC

WATERVILLE VALLEY, N.H. - Sophomore defenseman Max Wernert (Greenwich, Conn.) scored the tying goal with three seconds remaining in regulation Saturday evening, and Plymouth State College went on to finish in a 4-4 overtime deadlock against Worcester State College in an ECAC Northeast Conference ice hockey game at Waterville Valley Ice Arena.

It was the second straight game that PSC has scored the game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation. In fact, PSC came from behind to tie the game four times. The outcome wasn't enough for the Panthers, though, as they were officially eliminated from ECAC play-off contention.

Sophomore Mike Almeida (Ludlow, Mass.) and freshman Jeff Urban (Ludlow, Mass.) led the Lancers with a goal and two assists apiece. Senior Matt Cruikshank (Beverly, Mass.) added a goal and an assist, and freshman Dan Grout (Enfield, Conn.) scored once for Worcester State.

Cruikshank tallied the only goal of the first period, but PSC tied it at 7:25 of the second on a goal by freshman Matt Gotts (Danvers, Mass.). Urban scored at 17:44 of the second to give the Lancers a 2-1 lead after two periods.

Junior Mike Jackson (Middleton, Mass) notched a big goal for PSC just 28 seconds into the third period to tie it up again, but the visitors regained the lead two minutes later on a goal by Grout.

The Panthers tied it for the third time at 12:08 on a power play goal by sophomore Kyle Poirier (Concord, N.H.). Nine of Poirier's 10 goals this season have come with the man-advantage. It looked like the game would go to overtime at 3-3, but Almeida scored for Worcester State with 20 seconds remaining in regulation.

With the game and the season on the line, PSC pulled its goalie for the final 20 seconds, and Wernert connected on the tying goal with three seconds on the clock. Freshman Rory Nickerson (West Chatham, Mass.) picked up his third assist of the game on the play, and classmate Dennis Kane (Westford, Mass.) registered his second assist of the evening.

The Panthers were forced to pull the goalie in overtime to try and get the game-winning goal, because a tie would eliminate them from the play-off race, but the clock ran out on PSC.

The game marked the return of junior goalie Mike Mansson (Wilson, Wyo.), who has been out since Jan. 7 with a hand injury. Mansson finished with 36 saves, while sophomore Jon Coderre (Simsbury, Conn.) made 46 saves for WSC as PSC outshot the Lancers, 50-40.

PSC, 5-11-5 overall and 3-8-4 in the Northeast, plays its final game of the season Tuesday at Western New England College (7:55 p.m.). Worcester State, 7-12-3 overall and 6-6-2 in the conference, returns home to host Assumption on Tuesday (7:30 p.m.)