UTICA, N.Y. - The Utica College men's hockey team netted four unanswered goals, including three in the third period alone, to earn a 4-2 come from behind victory over visiting Bowdoin College in the NCAA Division III quarterfinals on Saturday night in front of 3,847 fans at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
The Pioneers got behind 2-0 in the first period, but used goals from junior's Jordan Hobaica (Clinton, NY/Northwood School), Trever Hertz (Jaffray, British Columbia/Quesnel Millionaires (BCHL)), and Ridge Garbutt (Toronto, Ontario/Brewster Academy (NH)), followed by an empty-netter from senior Eric Peterson (Newton, NH/Valley (EJHL)) in the final minute to secure UC's spot in the NCAA Division III Semifinals against Wisconsin-Eau Claire at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, NY next Friday (7:30 p.m.). Utica senior captain Evan Chlanda (Islip, NY/Springfield (EJHL)) tallied a season-best three assists on the evening.
“It's going to take a while to set in,” said Hobaica of the Pioneers quarterfinal victory. “Here we are now going to the final four, I'm just happy to be a part of it. This is a tight knit group and we're excited to be taking it to the final weekend.”
The Pioneers (21-5-1), making their first appearance in the NCAA Division III Tournament, gave up two goals in a span of 2:17 midway through the first period to fall into an early 2-0 hole. Bowdoin's Ollie Koo ripped home a one-timer, his 16th goal of the year, off an assist from Harry Matheson to put the Polar Bears on top 1-0 11:38 into the first period.
Just over two minutes later Matherson added his second point of the night when he sent a shot from straight away past UC junior goalie Nick Therrien (Rochester, NH/NY Apple Core (EJHL)) to give the visitors a convincing 2-0 lead. Colin Downey and Alexander Milley both assisted on the Polar Bears second and final goal of the evening.
Therrien proved to be lights out the rest of the way, holding the visitors scoreless for the final 46:05 to earn his school-record 19th win of the season.
“We have a ton of respect for Bowdoin,” said 12th year Head Coach Gary Heenan of the Pioneers opponent on Saturday night. “I thought a big difference maker for us tonight was Nick Therrien (Rochester, NH/NY Apple Core (EJHL)). We made some questionable mistakes in the second period and Therrien stepped up to stop shots.”
Therrien finished the night with 27 saves as the Pioneers were outshot 29-25 on the afternoon.
Despite being outshot 14-4 in the second period, UC was able to get on the board when Hobaica scored just his fourth goal of the season to cut the Bowdoin lead to 2-1, 45 seconds into the second period. Chlanda and defender Steve Zappia (Buffalo, NY/Buffalo Jr. Sabres (OJAHL)) assisted on the Hobaica goal that lit a fire under the Pioneers.
Bowdoin took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission after killing three Pioneer power-plays, while failing to convert on two power-play opportunities of their own. Both teams were held scoreless on the power-play all afternoon (Bowdoin: 0-for-3, Utica: 0-for-5).
The Pioneers rallied in the third period, outshooting Bowdoin 12-8 in the 20 minute stretch, including three goals that slipped past Bowdoin sophomore goalie Max Fenkell. Fenkell finished the night with 21 saves.
UC's Trever Hertz (Jaffray, British Columbia/Quesnel Millionaires (BCHL)) tied the game at 2-2 when he wristed a shot past Fenkell 3:28 into the period, his 13th goal of the season, off an assist from Chlanda. Garbutt scored what proved to be the game-winner with less than four minutes to go in the game when he tipped home a high shot from Chlanda to put the Pioneers on top 3-2 with 4:24 left. Garbutt now has ten goals on the year and Jon Gaffney (Dover, NJ/Springfield Blues (NAHL)) was also credited with an assist for UC.
Peterson added an empty-netter with 53 second left to secure the Pioneer victory, much to the delight of the sold-out Utica contingent. Senior defenders Steve Zappia (Buffalo, NY/Buffalo Jr. Sabres (OJAHL)) and Josh Schmitt (Buffalo, NY/Buffalo (OPJHL)) were each credited with an assist on the game's final goal.
“The challenge here now is that you're on the run and we've been on a one and out for five games now. This is a challenge and that's what I like to see here,” said Bowdoin Head Coach Terry Meagher who is in his 30th season at the helm of the Polar Bears. “You get to play different teams here in the NCAA's and that's what makes it exciting and that's what makes the NCAA Tournament a great experience for the student-athletes.”
- Bowdoin, the New England Small College Athletic Conference Tournament Champions, finished their year with a 23-4-2 overall record. The Polar Bears were making their third appearance in the NCAA quarterfinals in the last four years.
- The Pioneers earned an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament after winning a share of the ECAC Men's West Conference Regular season title and the No. 1 seed in the conference's post season tournament.
- Oswego will take on Norwich in the other semifinal contest at 4 p.m. on Friday in Lake Placid.