UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The Utica College men's hockey team knocked off the US National Under-18 Team, 4-1, Saturday night in an exhibition contest at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. After trailing 1-0 in the first period, the Pioneers used three third period goals and added one more in the final stanza to upset a USA team that had defeated Division 1 and third-ranked Michigan University last Saturday. The last time Team USA lost to a Division III program was back in 2011 when Manhatanville topped the U-18's by the score of 2-1.
"What an outstanding confidence boost for our guys as we close out the first half of the season," said Head Coach Gary Heenan. "They have 20 players who have committed to Division I programs, so for our guys to be able to go out there and earn a three goal victory is a big accomplishment for us. I'd like to see this type of play translate to the second half of the season and we will be in pretty good shape."
Louie Educate (Chicago, IL/Aberdeen (NAHL)) and Mike Slowikowski (Ewing, NJ/N.J. Hitmen (EJHL)) each recorded a goal and an assist for Utica, while freshman goalie Marcus Zelzer (Green Bay, WI/Kenai River (NAHL)) stopped 29 of the 30 shots he faced. UC outshot the visitors 31-30 on the afternoon.
Team USA opened the scoring in the first period when Baldwinsville, NY native and Boston College bound Alex Tuch punched home a power-play goal at the 14:49 marker. He was assisted by potential first round draft picks Jack Eichel (committed to Boston University) and Sonny Milano (committed to Boston College).
The second period proved to be all Pioneers as they netted three consecutive goals in the 20 minute stretch. Utica senior big man Mike Slowikowski (Ewing, NJ/N.J. Hitmen (EJHL)) impressed the NHL scouts in attendance when he netted the equalizer, unassisted, just 29 seconds into the second period on the power-play to tie the score at 1-1.
Just over five minutes later freshman Zac Lazzaro (Aston, PA/Kenai River (NAHL)) scored what proved to be the game-winner, giving UC a 2-1 advantage, 5:47 into the second period. Classmates Easton Powers (South Lyon, MI/Port Huron (NAHL)) and Ryan Walker (Detroit, MI/Kenai River (NAHL)) assisted Lazzaro on the goal. Utica continued to pour it on late in the second period when junior All-American Louie Educate (Chicago, IL/Aberdeen (NAHL)) tipped home a goal to give the Pioneers a 3-1 lead with 1:15 left in the period. Senior assistant captain Trever Hertz (Jaffray, British Columbia/Quesnel Millionaires (BCHL)) and Mike Slowikowski (Ewing, NJ/N.J. Hitmen (EJHL)) assisted on the goal.
Senior forward Adam Graff (Bear, DE/Syracuse Stars (EJHL)) netted an insurance tally early in the third and final period, off assists from Donny Olivieri (Philadelphia, PA/Bismarck (NAHL)) and Louie Educate (Chicago, IL/Aberdeen (NAHL)), to close out the scoring with the Pioneers on top by three goals.
USA goalie Blake Weyrick stopped a total of 27 shots in net for the visitors.
The Pioneers return to action after the New Year on January 3, 2014 when they travel to Oswego State to take on University of Wisconsin-Stout in the Pathfinder Classic. The contest is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. Team USA, which snapped a four game winning streak, will be back in action tomorrow afternoon when it travels to Division I opponent RPI to take on the Engineers in Troy, NY at 4 p.m.
The last time the Pioneers took on team USA was back in 2009 when the U-18's earned a convincing 10-1 victory at the Aud. Team USA played two other Division III programs earlier this season (Fredonia and Nazareth) and won by a combined score of 9-0.