UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The nationally-ranked No. 9/10 Utica College men's hockey team won its fourth consecutive contest heading into holiday break as the Pioneers topped visiting Nichols College 4-1 in a non-conference affair at the Utica Memorial Auditorium Saturday night. The Pioneers, coming off arguably their biggest win of the season at No. 2 Oswego on Friday night, wrapped up their first semester with a 9-2 overall record, including a 7-1 mark on their home ice.
“Nichols played us tough tonight – I give them a ton of credit. It took us a full period to get our legs after a hard fought game last night at Oswego,” said Head Coach Gary Heenan. “I'd like to think it was a fairly successful first semester, but the season is extremely long and our guys know that. We have a long road ahead of us and a lot of work to do if we want to accomplish what we think we are capable of.”
Junior first-line center Ridge Garbut led UC with two points (one goal, one assist), while freshman goalie Gordon Ceasar (Oak Park, CA/Rochester (EJHL)) stopped 19 shots in his first collegiate start for the Pioneers.
After a fairly uneventful 19 minutes of first period play, junior captain Jon Gaffney (Dover, NJ/Springfield Blues (NAHL)), who currently ranks second on the team in scoring (15 points), got the Pioneers on the board late in the first period when he netted his eighth goal of the season with just 26 seconds to go in the period. Garbutt was credited with an assist on the Pioneer's first goal of the contest.
UC padded its lead after freshman Nick Miglio (Boerne, TX/Bismarck (NAHL)) was pulled down on a breakaway and was awarded a penalty shot midway through the second period. Miglio made the most of his opportunity as he made a move on Nichols goalie Alex Larson, put the brakes on, and wristed home his first collegiate goal into the top right corner to ignite the crowd of 3,000+ at the Aud. More importantly, Miglio's goal gave UC a 2-0 advantage with 12:12 left to play in the second.
The Pioneers took their 2-0 lead into the third period and Garbut got right back to work with a power-play goal to give UC a three goal lead. Senior Rob Morton (New Hartford, NY/Merrimack (Hockey East)) connected with classmate and team captain Evan Chlanda (Islip, NY/Springfield (EJHL)), who then slid a long pass cross-ice to a streaking Garbut to give UC the 3-0 lead, 3:26 into the final stanza.
Nichols' Zach Kohn and Frank Butler set up Kyle Shapiro for his third goal of the year with 2:19 left in regulation to cut UC's lead to 3-1. However, the Pioneers thwarted any chance of a Bison comeback when junior Adam Graff (Bear, DE/Syracuse Stars (EJHL)) cashed in on an empty-netter with just two seconds left on the game clock. Graff is now tied for third on the team with six goals this season.
Alex Larson played well in net for Nichols as he stopped 42 shots on the afternoon. UC outshot the visitors 46-20 overall and commanded the pace of play for the majority of the contest.
Nichols has now lost two in a row, as it was coming off a 6-1 loss at the hands of Suffolk last weekend, and its record dropped to 6-4 on the year. The Pioneers advanced their record to 3-0 all-time against the Bison, with all three wins coming at the friendly confines of the Utica Memorial Auditorium. The Pioneers beat Nichols 7-3 back in 2008 and 8-0 in 2007.
The Pioneers will take nearly a month off from competition before returning to the ice to take on Salve Regina back at the Aud on Friday, Jan. 4th at 7 p.m. The Bison will wrap up their four game road trip on Wednesday night when they travel to Southern New Hampshire for a non-conference contest at 7:30 p.m.