UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The nationally-ranked No. 9/11 Utica College men's hockey team earned a 5-1 victory over visiting Salve Regina University in the 9th annual New York Sash Teddy Bear Toss at the Utica Memorial Auditorium Saturday night. Utica senior forward Ridge Garbutt (Toronto, Ontario/Brewster Academy (NH)) netted the pivotal first period goal that sent thousands of stuffed animals flying just 5:50 into the contest much to the delight of the sold out crowd at the Aud (3,815 fans). Garbutt is now one of three players in program-history to score two career Teddy Bear Toss goals (his first was in 2011).
"This is always the game that the fans look for on our schedule. It's a great community event and all of the toys stay local here in the Mohawk Valley," said Utica College Head Coach Gary Heenan. "We cannot thank the city of Utica enough for the tremendous support. Everyone has really rallied around this game and our guys feel really privileged to be a part of one of Utica's greatest holiday traditions."
All of the stuffed animals collected at tonight's event will be delivered to Operation Sunshine by New York Sash and First News with Keeler in the Morning for distribution to local families in need throughout the holiday season.
UC seniors Adam Graff (Bear, DE/Syracuse Stars (EJHL)) and Jon Gaffney (Dover, NJ/Springfield Blues (NAHL)) each tallied two assists, while nine other Pioneers tallied one point. The Pioneers improved to 8-2-1 overall and snapped a two game slide at the Aud. Salve Regina has now lost four in a row and its record moved to 6-5 on the year.
Utica jumped out to a 1-0 first period lead behind the big goal from Garbutt, but the Seahawks answered right back 7:04 into the second period to knot the score at 1-1 after a goal from Lucas Sousa.
The Pioneers then rattled off four straight goals in the final 27:40 of the contest to earn the four goal victory. Freshman Kevin Kirisits (Buffalo, NY/Brockville (CCHL)) netted what proved to be the game-winner 12:20 into the second period, his second goal of the season, off assists from Jon Gaffney (Dover, NJ/Springfield Blues (NAHL)) and Luc Boby (Chicago, IL/Kalamazoo (NAHL)).
1:42 before the end of the second period, Utica senior forward Jordan Hobaica (Clinton, NY/Northwood School) gave UC a 3-1 lead when he pushed home his second of the year off assists from Adam Graff (Bear, DE/Syracuse Stars (EJHL)) and freshman Ryan Walker (Detroit, MI/Kenai River (NAHL)).
Utica added two more third period goals late in the contest to seal the victory. Peter LaFosse (Merrimack, NH/Kimball Union Academy) scored on a beautiful give-and-go from Graff with 2:05 remaining in regulation and sophomore Nick Miglio (Boerne, TX/Bismarck (NAHL)) added an empty-netter with 1:14 left to close out the scoring on the evening.
Senior goalie Nick Therrien (Rochester, NH/NY Apple Core (EJHL)) had a stellar evening in net for the Pioneers as he stopped 29 shots, including all ten of the shots he faced in the final period. Utica outshot Salve 34-30 on the afternoon.
Both teams were held scoreless on the power-play, combining for an 0-for-12 effort on the evening. Salve Regina goalie Jake Williams made 29 saves in the loss.
The Pioneers will be back in action next Saturday at the Aud when they host the USA National Under-18 Team in a highly anticipated exhibition contest at 7 p.m. Several future NHL stars will be on the ice for team USA. Following the contest will be an open skate for fans with both team USA and the Pioneers.