Panthers will hope for an at large berth to NCAA Tournament
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Junior Jonathan Ruiz (Williamstown, N.J.) and sophomore Steven Leonard (Rockaway Park, N.Y.) each tallied a goal and an assist to lead fourth-seeded University of Massachusetts Dartmouth to a 3-1 upset win over top-seeded Plymouth State University in the semifinals of the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) men's ice hockey tournament Tuesday night at Hanaway Rink.
UMass Dartmouth improves to 12-12-3 and advances to the championship game on Saturday. The Corsairs will face second-seeded Fitchburg State University, who beat sixth-seeded Salem State University, in Tuesday night's other semifinal.
PSU (19-5-2) sees is run of six-straight MASCAC Championship appearances come to an end. The Panthers, currently #13/14 in the nation and #7 in the NCAA East Regional Rankings, will hope for an at large berth to the NCAA Tournament. The tournament field will be announced on Monday (Mar. 5) at 10:30 a.m. on NCAA.com.
After a scoreless first period, senior Chris Zuccaro (Hudson, N.H.) put the home team ahead at the 7:06 mark of the second. Junior Tim Perron (Northborough, Mass.) rifled a shot from the right side that Zuccaro redirected past senior goaltender Drew Michals (Newton, Mass.) to put the Panthers up 1-0.
The Corsairs evened the game late in the period with a power play tally. Leonard fired a pass from the right circle to Ruiz in the slot, who buried a slapshot to the top left corner.
UMD went in front, 2-1, just over five minutes into the third period. Senior Jerry Laakso (Tampere, Finland) blasted a slapshot from just inside the blue line on the left side. The shot nicked a Panther stick and deflected past junior goalie Evan Morelli (Reading, Mass.).
Plymouth had a golden opportunity to knot the game with just over two minutes to play when a pass through the crease found an open Panther on the backdoor, but the puck caught the heel of his stick and the shot went wide.
Leonard capped the scoring with a power play goal with just 50 seconds remaining. Ruiz took the puck down the right side, then found Leonard open the slot and his wrister went top shelf to account for the final score.
Morelli finished with 24 saves for PSU, dropping to 16-3-1, while Michals turned aside 27 shots to improve to 9-12-1.
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