Panthers battle back from three-goal deficit before falling late
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – The Plymouth State University men's ice hockey team battled back from deficits of 3-0 and 5-2 to even the game at 5-5 in the third period, but Fitchburg State University was able to cash in with a pair of power play tallies in the final five minutes to secure a 7-5 win in a Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) game at Hanaway Rink on Saturday night.
With the win, Fitchburg improves to 12-6-3 (7-4-3 MASCAC) and stops the Panthers' eight-game winning streak and run of 12-straight conference victories. The Falcons also pull to within seven points of PSU for the top spot in the MASCAC. Plymouth State (16-4-1, 12-2-0 MASCAC) will lock up the regular season title with one more point over the next four league games.
Fitchburg played inspired from the start and took advantage of a five-minute major penalty with a pair of power play goals in the first period. Senior James Gordon (Hingham, Mass.) streaked down the middle and flicked a wrist shot to the top left corner for a 1-0 lead just 22 seconds into the major penalty. Freshman Sascha Figi (Kloten, Switzerland) made it 2-0 with a one-timer from the right circle high to the near side less than three minutes later.
The Panther offense started clicking in the second period. PSU outshot the Falcons 23-9 in the stanza, but it was Fitchburg who would score first. Senior Evan Byrnes (New City, N.Y.) came flying down the right side on a 3-on-2 break and his shot from the top of the circle beat sophomore goalie Thierry Messervier (Montreal, Que.) high to the stick side to go ahead 3-0.
PSU broke through at the 9:01 mark when sophomore Victor Bergstrom (Angelholm, Sweden) tipped in a shot from the point by junior Tim Perron (Northborough, Mass.). Less than two minutes later freshman JR Barone (West Chester, Penn.) cut the deficit to a single goal, 3-2, with his first of two scores on the night. Bergstrom carried the puck down the right side, then fed Barone who made a nifty move to deke FSU goalie Kirby Saari (Cape Elizabeth, Maine) and stuffed a backhanded shot to the five-hole.
Figi quickly quieted the PSU momentum with a goal just 26 seconds later when his attempt to center the puck went through the crease and deflected off the back of Panther goaltender Evan Morelli (Reading, Mass.). The Falcons restored the three-goal lead with 2:38 left in the period when junior Ricky Kramer (Barnstead, N.H.) got behind the defense and beat Morelli high to the blocker side to make it 5-2.
Barone planted his second of the night with 1:22 left in the period. Junior Ryan Stevens (Colleyville, Texas) picked off a clear attempt on the end boards and flipped it to Barone who was alone in front of the goal. The rookie went to the backhand again to find the back of the net for his 11th tally of the season making it a 5-3 game heading into the third period.
PSU cut the margin to 5-4 with a goal 3:33 into the third period. Perron took a puck from the defensive zone, skated all the way down the ice around the right circle and wrapped it around Saari to the far post. Stevens completed the comeback less than four minutes later when he redirected a pass from Bergstrom past Saari at the 7:15 mark.
Three PSU penalties, including a second five-minute major, took the momentum back from the Panthers and junior Brandon Ecklund (Fitchburg, Mass.) capitalized. The 5-8 forward banged home a rebound high to the nearside to make it 6-5 with 5:03 to play. Less than two minutes later Ecklund struck again. With heavy traffic in front of the PSU goal, Ecklund flicked the puck over an outstretched Morelli to give the visitors some insurance.
Fitchburg finished 4-of-5 on the power play, while the Panthers went 1-of-5. Plymouth State outshot the Falcons by a 51-28 margin but were done in by 30 penalty minutes. Saari finished with 46 saves to improve to 5-3-2, while Messervier and Morelli combined to make 21 stops with Morelli suffering the loss to drop to 13-2-0.
Barone finished with a pair of goals for the Panthers, while Bergstrom had a four-point night (1g, 3a). Figi also registered four points (2g, 2a) while sophomore Christopher Vicario (Cranston, R.I.) recorded three assists for the Falcons.
The Panthers will look to lock up the top seed for the MASCAC tournament with a win or a tie at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth on Thursday. Puck-drop is set for 7:35 p.m.
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