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PSU Men’s Hockey downs Fitchburg in MASCAC semifinal

Greco leads Panthers to second straight title game

            PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Senior Kyle Greco (Hillside, Ill.) scored two goals and assisted on two others Tuesday evening as top-seeded Plymouth State University defeated fifth-seeded Fitchburg State University, 7-1, in a semifinal game of the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) Men's Ice Hockey Tournament at Hanaway Rink.

            Freshman Zach Fox (Sandown, N.H.) added a goal and two assists and senior goalie Jack Astedt (Angelholm, Sweden) made 27 saves as PSU earned a berth in its second straight MASCAC championship game. The Panthers scored five third-period goals to defeat the Falcons for the fourth time this season, and improved their home record this winter to 12-1.

            PSU, 19-6-1 overall, will host the MASCAC title game this Saturday at 6:00 p.m. at Hanaway Rink against second-seeded University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. The Corsairs outlasted third-seeded Salem State University in Tuesday's other semifinal.  PSU edged Salem State, 3-2, in last year's championship game.  Saturday's winner will receive the MASCAC's automatic berth into the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament.

            Fitchburg State, which upset fourth-seeded Westfield State in last Saturday's quarterfinal, completes its season at 11-14-2 overall. The Falcons were the 2011 MASCAC champions.

            The offenses got off to a slow start as neither team was able to score in the opening period.  The upset-minded Falcons had the advantage early, out-shooting the home team 12-1 in the first 13 minutes before ending the period with a 13-6 shot margin.

            It was midway through the second period when Fox finally broke through for the Panthers. He took a drop pass near the left circle from senior Alex Cottle (West Chester, Pa.) and snapped a shot that went over the goalie's shoulder into the top right corner at the 11:54 mark.  Sophomore Zach Sarig (Reading, Pa.) doubled the lead four minutes later, as Greco won an offensive zone face-off back to Sarig at the point, and Sarig fired a shot through a screened goalie for his ninth of the season.

            The Panthers extended the margin in the third period, as senior Kyle Weiland (Hamden, Maine) scored on a rebound at 2:29 after the goalie had stopped a shot by junior Dave Walters (Ottawa, Ont.)

            The Falcons did not give up, and senior Joseph Caveney (Fitchburg, Mass.), the nation's leading scorer, tallied a power play goal at 5:37 to put the visitors on the board.  Caveney made an outstanding individual effort, stick-handling through the Panther defense and snapping a shot inside the left post to break up the shutout.

            It took PSU just 16 seconds to get the goal back as Greco took a feed from Fox in the slot and scored to mark it 4-1 with 14 minutes remaining.  Freshman Colt Smelstor (Fairfax, Vt.) intercepted a clearing pass at the blue line two minutes later and fired a wrist shot that found the back of the net, and Cottle got into the act with seven minutes to play after another pass from Fox.  Greco closed out the scoring in the final minute with his second of the night following some nice passing from junior Travis Stevens (Montclair, Calif.) and freshman Andrew Wigg (Lantz (N.S.).

            Plymouth State came back to finish with a 35-28 advantage in shots on goal.  PSU killed off six out of seven Fitchburg power plays but came up empty on four extra-man opportunities.

            Junior Randy Wolcott (East Haven, Conn.) finished with 28 saves for the Falcons. 

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