UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The nationally-ranked No. 4/8 Utica College men's hockey team defeated visiting and nationally-ranked No. 10/15 Neumann University 6-2 in an ECAC West showdown at the Utica Memorial Auditorium Saturday night. Utica junior forward Trever Hertz (Jaffray, British Columbia/Quesnel Millionaires (BCHL)) registered his first career hat-trick to help the Pioneers improve to 15-3 overall, and they have now won 10 of their last 11 contests.
The Pioneers are now 6-2 overall in ECAC West Conference play and they are 10-1 at home, where they have sold out 7-of-11 home contests this season, including Friday nights (3,847 fans) win over the Knights.
Utica, which is just two wins shy of tying the school's single season record for wins set back in 2010-2011, snapped the Knights seven game winning streak which helped to propel them into the national rankings. Neumann is now 11-5-2 overall and 3-5 ECAC West play. Utica earned a 2-1 advantage in the season series with the Knights.
“Neumann has always given us trouble, so to be able to come back to the Aud after a long road trip and beat them by four goals is a really a great feeling for our program,” said Head Coach Gary Heenan, whose Pioneers have been knocked out of the ECAC West Conference Tournament in each of the past four seasons by the Knights.
The Pioneers jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first period behind a strange goal from team leading scorer Louie Educate (Chicago, IL/Aberdeen (NAHL)). Educate's centering pass ricocheted off a Neumann defender in front of the net and beat Neumann goalie Ben Curley to put the Pioneers on top 1-0. Senior captain Evan Chlanda (Islip, NY/Springfield (EJHL)) was credited with an assist on the first goal of the game.
The second period was all Utica as the Pioneers pushed to a 4-0 lead by the end of the 20 minute stretch. Hertz scored two of his three goals in the stretch, while New Hartford's Rob Morton (New Hartford, NY/Merrimack (Hockey East)) added a tally of his own to give the Pioneers a convincing four goal advantage headed into the final period of play. Sophomore Peter LaFosse (Merrimack, NH/Kimball Union Academy) assisted on both of Hertz's second period goals.
Neumann threatened with the first two goals of the third period to cut the home team's lead in half, 4-2, with 14:45 remaining in the contest. Steve Gervais and Craig Cowie tallied what proved to be the Knight's only two goals of the contest.
Hertz solidified the hat-trick midway through the third period to seal the victory for UC, and junior defender Mike Slowikowski (Ewing, NJ/N.J. Hitmen (EJHL)) added an empty-netter with 14 seconds left, to close out the scoring on the afternoon with the Pioneers ahead by four goals, 6-2.
Junior Adam Graff (Bear, DE/Syracuse Stars (EJHL)), freshman Joel Wetmore (Horseheads, NY/Lindsay (OJHL)) and classmate Donny Olivieri (Philadelphia, PA/Bismarck (NAHL)) each registered an assist on the evening for Utica.
Junior goalie Nick Therrien (Rochester, NH/NY Apple Core (EJHL)) improved to 13-2 overall on the year after stopping 22 shots. Therrien currently leads the nation with 13 victories this season.
Louie Educate (Chicago, IL/Aberdeen (NAHL))'s one goal gave him a total of 28 points this season (14 goals, 14 assists) and he currently ranks ninth in the country with an average of 1.56 points per contest. Freshman Donny Olivieri (Philadelphia, PA/Bismarck (NAHL)) is now tied for fourth nationally in defensemen scoring with an average of 1.06 points per game.
Utica is now averaging 4.94 goals per game, which ranks fourth in the nation, and the Pioneers' average margin of victory (2.67) also ranks fourth in NCAA Division III hockey.
Ben Curley and Braely Torris combined for 29 saves on the afternoon as the Pioneers outshot the visitors 35-24.
The Pioneers return to the ice Saturday night when they take on nationally-ranked Manhattanville in another ECAC Men's West Conference battle at 7 p.m. The contest is a part of the inaugural Adirondack Bank Bobble Head Night, where the first 2,000 fans through the gates will receive a collector's edition Trax the Pioneer Moose Bobble Head courtesy of Adirondack Bank. The gates open at 6 p.m.