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March 3, 2012

MASCAC CHAMPS: PSU Men’s Hockey downs Salem in 2OT

Weiland's game-winner sends Panthers to first NCAA Tourney 

            PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Junior Kyle Weiland scored the game-winning goal 4:48 into the second overtime Saturday evening to give the Plymouth State University men's ice hockey team its first conference championship in its 40-year history with a dramatic 5-4 victory over Salem State University in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) championship game before a capacity crowd at Hanaway Rink.

            Weiland, who was named the Most Valuable Player, collected a loose puck just inside the blue line, turned a fired a shot that snuck past the goaltender into the upper right corner of the goal, setting off pandemonium in the rink.  The victory gives the top-seeded Panthers (17-6-3 overall) the MASCAC's first automatic berth into the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament.  The championship field and pairings will be announced Sunday night on the NCAA Division III Men's Ice Hockey Selection Show on www.NCAA.com.

            The second-seeded Vikings, who were playing in the MASCAC championship game for the third straight year, complete their season with a 15-9-3 overall record.  Salem State was defeated by Fitchburg State in overtime (6-5) in last year's title game after knocking off the Falcons in OT (2-1) for the championship in 2010.

            The Panthers got goals from five different players, with sophomores Phil Arnone and Dave Walters and juniors JC Richardson and Phil Moore all scoring for the home team. Moore's goal, a slap shot from the point that snuck inside the left post, tied the game at 4-4 with just 2:30 left in regulation play.

            The Vikings also got goals from four different players, with seniors Ian Flanagan and Giancarlo Capodanno, freshman Andrew Cetola and sophomore Eric Defelice finding the net.

            Shot on goal for the game were tied at 38-apiece.  PSU junior goaltender Jack Astedt made 34 saves to earn the victory, while Salem State sophomore Ryan Sutliffe was just as solid at the other end with 33 stops.

            Arnone scored the only goal of the first period for PSU, as freshman Zach Sarig fired a slap shot that went high over the net and bounced off the back wall, right to Arnone who knocked in his ninth goal of the season.  Salem State had a 10-6 advantage in shots in the period but Plymouth State held a 1-0 lead.

            The Vikings came back to take their first lead of the night with a pair of goals a little over three minutes apart in the second period.  Flanagan put Salem on the board at the 8:23 mark with a laser from the right boards that went in off the crossbar for his eighth of the year, and Cetola added his fifth of the season on a rebound for a power play goal at 11:35.

            PSU evened the score with four minutes left in the middle frame when Richardson scored from the left circle on a Panther power play, knotting the game at 2-2.  The Vikings pulled back ahead with Capodanno's 13th of the year on a low liner than snuck inside the left post in the final minute of the middle frame, giving Salem a one-goal lead heading into the third period.

            After Walters scored for PSU from the point at the 9:19 mark to tie the game at 3-3, Defelice needed just 27 seconds to score on a partial breakaway to give the Vikings the lead back, 4-3, at the midway point of the period.  But Moore's third of the season for PSU with 2:30 left in regulation sent the game into overtime.

            PSU out-shot the Vikings 11-10 in the first extra session, but both goalies were equal to the task.  The Panthers were forced to kill off a penalty in the second overtime, and a minute later, Weiland won it for PSU.

            Plymouth State, led by second-year head coach Craig Russell, the MASCAC Coach of the Year, will take a nine-game unbeaten streak (8-0-1) in the NCAA Tournament. 

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