Late O'Brien goal sends game to OT; Volonnino nets game-winner
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Freshman Matt Volonnino (Hackettstown, N.J.) scored the game-winning goal three minutes into overtime Thursday night as Plymouth State University came from behind to defeat nationally-ranked Nichols College, 2-1, in a dramatic non-conference men's ice hockey game at Hanaway Rink.
The host Panthers got the chance to win it in overtime thanks to a game-tying goal by sophomore defenseman Caleb O'Brien (Saginaw, Mich.) with less than three seconds remaining in regulation play.
The outcome gives PSU its eighth straight victory, improving the Panthers to 9-1 on the season. Nichols had its 10-game winning streak snapped, dropping to 10-2 overall. The Bison are ranked 13th in the USCHO.com national poll and 14th in the d3hockey.com poll, while Plymouth State is receiving votes in both polls.
The game featured outstanding performances from both goaltenders as PSU out-shot the visitors, 42-25. Panther senior Gordon Ceasar (Oak Park, Calif.) remained undefeated on the season (8-0-0), making 24 saves, including three in overtime. Nichols senior Alex Larson (Madison, Ala.) made 40 saves, including 17 in the second period and 14 in the third, but suffered the loss (9-2).
After a scoreless first period, Nichols scored the only goal of the middle frame in the first minute. A shot by sophomore Scott Cuthrell (Waterford, Mich.) was stopped by Ceasar, but senior Paul Prescott (Oakdale, Minn.) jammed the rebound inside the right post for his second of the season. PSU had a 17-8 advantage in second-period shots but couldn't get one past Larson.
The hosts peppered the Bison goal with 15 more shots in the third period, but still remained scoreless. With Ceasar out of the net in the final minute and a face-off in the offensive zone, PSU called a time-out with seven seconds remaining. Sophomore Chris Zuccaro (Hudson, N.H.) won the draw to freshman Colby Lanceleve (Stewiacke, N.S.), who sent a shot towards to goal in traffic. O'Brien collected the rebound and slipped the puck past the goalie's blocker to tie the score at 1-1 with less than three seconds on the clock.
Matching penalties in the extra session created a 4-on-4, and Volonnino won it for the home team. He picked up a blocked shot in the defensive zone skated to the middle of the left faceoff circle and wristed a shot over Larson's right shoulder for the win, to the delight of the capacity crowd.
PSU wraps up the semester Saturday with a 7:00 p.m. non-conference match-up at Castleton University. Nichols is done for the semester and plays again on Jan. 7 at home against Westfield State University (12:40 p.m.)
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