Panthers finish season at 21-5-1, best mark in program history
SALEM, Mass. – Junior goalie Marcus Zelzer (Green Bay, WI) stopped all 25 shots to earn the shutout Saturday afternoon as No. 15 Salem State blanked Plymouth State University, 4-0, in the championship game of the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) Tournament at Rockett Arena.
Salem State, which ran its win streak to 13 games, earned the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament as they improved to 22-5 on the year. Zelzer earned tournament MVP honors for his efforts, as he recorded his fifth shutout and ran his win streak to 17 games, the longest in the country.
The Panthers end their season 21-5-1, the best record in the program's 44-year history.
There was plenty of room on the ice in the first 20 minutes of the contest as both sides skated four-on-four for about half of the period due to four minor penalties. However, both penalty kill units played well as each side was unable to score. Zelzer and Gordon Ceasar (Oak Park, Calif.) made important saves to keep the game scoreless including Ceasar denying Andrew Bettencourt (Riverside, RI), who pick pocketed a Panther defender behind the net, but was stopped by the left pad of Ceasar on the wrap around attempt.
In the final two minutes the Vikings' had a few scoring opportunities. Ryan Wilkinson (Burlington, ONT) found Casey Miller (Billerica, MA) alone in the slot for a wrist shot, but was turned away by the blocker of Ceasar. Seconds later, Miller found himself with the puck at the top of the left circle but was stopped by a diving Ceasar. Ceasar made 15 saves in the first while Zelzer made 10.
After a physical first period the pace of the game slowed down a tad as both teams earned offensive time on the attack. Salem State came out firing at Ceasar as they got off 11 shots in the period, including the game's first goal four and a half minutes into the second. Bettencourt collected a dump and chase in the right corner and found Keaton Cashin (Boxford, MA) alone skating down the left lane for an easy one-time goal. Ahead 1-0, Salem State almost allowed the Panthers to immediately answer when Ian McGilvrey (Omaha, NE) found the puck in the neutral zone with not one Vikings' defender in sight. However, Zelzer denied the speedy McGilvrey on a breakaway with a pad save to maintain Salem State's 1-0 edge.
Minutes later, the Vikings enhanced their lead to 2-0 when Michael Casale (Stoney Creek, ONT) went coast-to-coast pulling off a heavy wrist shot that directed to the right of the crease where Brandon Platt (Pittsburgh, PA) easily put home the juicy rebound for the two-goal lead. Some controversy came midway through the period when senior Andrew Wigg (Lantz, NS) knocked the mask off Zelzer then proceeded to score. However, whenever a goalie's mask is off play immediately is blown dead so the Vikings escaped a Panther goal and were awarded a power play due to goalie interference on Wigg.
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Salem State answered with a goal right after the Wigg penalty expired as Dan Holland (Woburn, MA) found Daniel Campbell (Waterloo, ONT) in front of the crease where Campbell snuck the puck over Ceasar's shoulder to put the Viking' ahead 3-0. Plymouth State had an abundance of scoring chances toward the end of the period with a 5-on-3 advantage for about a minute and a half. However, they came up empty as Zelzer denied all scoring opportunities. Salem State took a 3-0 lead heading into the final period.
The final period was owned by the Vikings despite a five-minute major being assessed to Michael Chen (Rockville, MD) midway through the period. In fact, that major penalty was canceled by a Plymouth State major penalty to senior Josh Woody (Sunderland, MD) for elbowing Zelzer causing Zelzer to loose his mask for the second time in the game. Salem State then went on a 5-on-3-man advantage moments later when senior Colt Smelstor (Fairfax, VT) was called for a hit after a whistle. On the power play the Vikings ate up most of the clock, but added a goal before the penalty expired. Miller and Cam Moniz (Seekonk, MA) played catch in the offensive zone that ended in a Moniz goal to secure the 4-0 victory to win the MASCAC championship.
Ceasar ended the game with an impressive 34 saves despite the loss. Ryan Doherty (Tewksbury, MA) collected two assists in the victory while Cashin, Moniz, Campbell, and Platt added all the goals.
Salem State will wait for the announcement of who they will play in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Vikings have won the MASCAC title two of the last three seasons, appearing in the NCAA Tournament in 2014. PSU was seeking its second straight title and third in five years.
(Courtesy of Salem State Sports Information)
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