Longaker's late goal lifts Panthers to fifth-straight win
SALEM, Mass. – Sophomore Drake Longaker (San Jose, Calif.) broke a scoreless tie with his third goal of the year 9:27 into the third period to lift the Plymouth State University men's ice hockey team to a 1-0 win over Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) rival Salem State University Thursday night at Rockett Arena.
The two goaltenders were fabulous. Senior Jason Pucciarelli (Newmarket, Ont.) made 22 saves for the Vikings, holding the high-powered Panther offense off the scoreboard for nearly 50 minutes and surrendering just the single goal. PSU junior Evan Morelli (Reading, Mass.) was even better, turning aside 31 shots for his third shutout of the season while running his record to a sparkling 11-1-0.
The Panthers (13-3-1, 9-1-0 MASCAC) have won nine straight MASCAC contests and each of their five games in 2018, while Salem State drops to 7-8-1 and 4-6-0 in league play.
Scoring opportunities were hard to come by through the first two periods as both teams struggled to sustain offensive momentum. Plymouth had power play opportunities in both the first and second periods but could not cash in.
With PSU putting pressure in the offensive zone, junior Ryan Stevens (Colleyville, Texas) passed to Longaker on the right sideboards just inside the blue line. The 6-0 defenseman fired a wrist shot that beat Pucciarelli high to the glove side for the game's only goal midway through the third period.
Salem had multiple opportunities late in the contest, but Morelli was able to preserve the lead. PSU's special teams killed four penalties in the final 10 minutes and held off a late flurry after Pucciarelli was pulled for an extra skater during the final 64 seconds.
The victory gives PSU a six-point lead over idle Worcester State for the MASCAC lead.
The Panthers will enjoy a rare weekend off before returning to the ice next Thursday (Jan. 25) for a home MASCAC game against Framingham State on Scout's Day. Local cub scouts, boy scouts and girl scouts will form a high five tunnel and present the colors prior to the game, then join the team for an autograph session after its completion. Puck-drop is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.
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