Panthers clinch regular season title, top seed for tournament
DARTMOUTH, Mass. – The Plymouth State University men's ice hockey skated past the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, 6-2, to clinch its sixth Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) regular season title in seven years on Thursday night.
The victory also locks up the top seed and a first-round bye for the Panthers (17-4-1, 13-2-0 MASCAC) for the upcoming MASCAC Tournament which begins on Feb. 24, while UMass Dartmouth drops to 9-11-2 (6-7-2 MASCAC).
The Corsairs jumped out to an early lead as senior Casey Shea (Woburn, Mass.) put the home team on the board just 47 seconds into play. Despite the two teams combining for another 23 shots in the period the score would remain 1-0 after the first 20 minutes.
PSU erupted for three goals in a six minute span during the second period to wipe out the deficit. Freshman Peter Laviolette (Nashville, Tenn.) streaked down the right side and fired a wrist shot past UMD senior goalie Drew Michals (Newton, Mass.) to even the score at 1-1 at the 7:54 mark. Just under two minutes later freshman Hunter Gunski (Goffstown, N.H.) put the Panthers in front with a wicked slapshot from the blue line following an offensive zone faceoff.
Junior Quinn Carroll (Amherst, N.H.) made it 3-1 four minutes later. Classmate Ludvig Steenberg (Stockholm, Sweden) connected with freshman Christian La Croix (Northford, Conn.) on a wing-to-wing pass into the offensive zone. La Croix dumped the puck off to Carroll, whose wrister found the back of the net.
Carroll and Steenberg teamed up again for the Panthers' fourth goal early in the third period. Carroll skated down the right side, past the goal line, then slid the puck in front to a cutting Steenberg who beat Michaels to the far post just 1:32 into the final period to make it 4-1.
Junior Brendan McDonough (Wilmington, Mass.) momentarily stopped the PSU momentum with a goal five minutes into the third. McDonough came into the middle from the right half boards before firing a shot past PSU junior goalie Evan Morelli (Reading, Mass.) high to the stick side to make it 4-2, but Plymouth responded.
La Croix potted his fourth of the season at the 12:21 mark and freshman Marc Happy (Sterling, Mass.) capped the scoring with a short-handed, empty net goal with just over three minutes to play. Happy blocked a shot at the blue line, then skated in along the left side before softly putting the puck into the empty net from the bottom of the left circle.
Morelli finished with 26 saves to improve to 14-2-0, while Michals made 24 stops but fell to 6-11-2. After racking up 30 penalty minutes on eight infractions in last Saturday's game with Fitchburg State University, the Panthers were whistled for just one minor penalty while the Corsairs played a clean game.
The Panthers will host rival Salem State for a Senior Night match-up on Saturday at Hanaway Rink. Puck-drop is set for 6:00 p.m.
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