Volonnino scores twice as Panthers' offense explodes in second period
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Top-seeded Plymouth State University scored five goals in the second period to cruise past fourth-seeded Worcester State University, 6-1, in the semifinal round of the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) men's ice hockey tournament at Hanaway Rink on Tuesday night.
Plymouth State advances to its seventh MASCAC title game and will host sixth-seeded Salem State University in the championship game Saturday (Mar. 2) at 7:00 p.m. The Vikings continued an improbable playoff run recording a second straight upset after beating second-seeded Westfield State University in the night's other semifinal by a 5-2 score.
The Panthers took a 1-0 lead with a power play goal from senior Tim Perron (Northborough, Mass.) early in the first period, but it was a second period barrage that lifted PSU to the win. The Plymouth State offense erupted for five goals in the middle stanza, highlighted by two scores from senior Matt Volonnino (Hackettstown, N.J.) and the hosts coasted to the victory.
Volonnino finished with a pair of goals and now sits at 99 career points, while classmate Ryan Stevens (Colleyville, Texas) dished out three assists.
Worcester State has its six-game unbeaten streak come to an end as the Lancers close the season with a 15-10-2 mark. Plymouth State improves to 16-7-3 and will host the championship game for the fourth time in program history.
The Final Score:
Plymouth State 6, Worcester State 1
Plymouth State (16-7-3)
Worcester State (15-10-2)
How it Happened:
* The Panthers got on the board at the 5:25 mark of the opening period, capitalizing on an abbreviated power play after successfully killing off a Lancers' man-up chance. Perron snapped a wrist shot to the top right corner past freshman goaltender Ryan Hoff (Brockton, Mass.) to give the hosts an early lead.
* Worcester nearly the goal back minutes later but senior Evan Morelli (Reading, Mass.) made a sprawling save on a two-on-one breakaway to preserve the lead.
* The Panthers took advantage of another power play chance to start the second when Volonnino stuffed in the puck after a scrum in front of the net 59 seconds into the period.
* PSU struck again just 43 seconds later when sophomore Henrik Axelson (Danderyd, Sweden) snuck the puck in on the far side to make it 3-0.
* Volonnino picked up his second goal of the game on a beautiful move 3:47 into the frame. While on the penalty kill, a Stevens stretch pass sent Volonnino free down the nearside. He made a nifty spin move around a defender and knocked a backhander into the net to chase Hoff and give the home team a 4-0 lead.
* Sophomore Brett Backman (Cos Cob, Conn.) made a great pass to set up the Panthers' fifth goal at the 10:39 mark of the period. Backman made a cut behind the Worcester State goal before flicking a backhanded pass to sophomore Jake Gerbner (Havertown, Pa.), who buried it into the open net.
* Five minutes later Gerbner fed sophomore JR Barone (West Chester, Pa.) on a 2-on-1 break and Barone flipped the puck into the net.
* Worcester State spoiled the shutout 7:43 into the third period when sophomore Matthew Manning (Novi, Mich.) fired a wrist shot past Morelli off a feed from senior Mike Moran (Milford, Mass.).
Inside the Numbers:
* Volonnino's two goals give him 99 career points, while Stevens posted three assists.
* Gerbner and Barone each contributed a goal and an assist and senior Michael Covach (Shillington, Pa.) added two helpers to give him a team-leading 28 on the year.
* Plymouth State's special teams were remarkable as the Panthers went 3-for-4 on the power play and added Volonnino's short-hander.
* Westfield State went scoreless with four man-advantage opportunities.
* Morelli made 17 saves to improve to 14-6-3 on the year. Hoff made 14 saves but allowed four goals through the first 23:47 of action to suffer his first loss (4-1-1), while sophomore Aaron Callan (South Lyon, Mich.) stopped 12 shots over the final 36:13.
* Saturday's pairing will be the sixth time in the last ten years that Plymouth State and Salem State have met in the title game. The Vikings have won three of the previous five meetings.
Straight From the Coach's Mouth:
"I thought the guys were really focused and energized before the game and I knew that would lead to some positive results," said head coach Craig Russell. "After the slow start to the first period I thought we came out with a deeper focus and determination and we were relentless on pucks all over the ice. It's nice to see the guys get rewarded for playing like that and hopefully we can bottle that up and spill it onto the ice on Saturday."
* Plymouth State advances to its seventh MASCAC Tournament championship game and will look to secure its third tournament title when it battles Salem State on Saturday at Hanaway Rink. Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m.
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