Pioneers fall to Valiants at the Aud

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The nationally-ranked No. 9 Utica College men’s hockey team allowed four goals in the third period as visiting Manhattanville College skated to a 5-1 victory over the Pioneers in a pivotal ECAC Men’s West Conference matchup at the Aud on Friday night. A crowd of 3,494 saw the Valiants break a 1-1 tie by netting three goals in the first 5:11 of the third period to help Manhattanville remain unbeaten in ten of their last 11 games.

“It’s always a battle every time Manhattanville comes to town and it was certainly no different tonight. This was the type of game our guys have prepared for all year and unfortunately we came up short in the third period,” said 11th year Head Coach Gary Heenan. “We have to bounce right back and travel to Manhattanville for another tough game at their place tomorrow night.”

The Pioneers (14-6-1, 3-4-1 ECAC West) got on the board first when senior captain Tim Coffman netted his ninth goal of the season with less than three minutes left in the first period of play. Steve Zappia and Ridge Garbutt were each credited with an assist on the Pioneers’ lone goal of the evening.

Manhattanville (12-5-3, 6-3-0 ECAC West) answered with its first scored of the night 5:20 into the second period of play when Derek Serdachny helped the Valiants knot the score at 1-1. Senior captain Mark Rivera led the third period charge for M’Ville as he tallied two goals and added one assist in the final 20 minutes of action. Scott Hudson finished the day with one goal and two assists, while Brett Skalsi added a goal of his own.

Manhattanville net minder Pierre-Olivier Lemieux stopped 23 of the 24 shots he faced, while UC goalie Evan Smith made 23 saves before being replaced 5:11 into the third period of play. Sophomore Nick Therrien came on in relief of Smith and stopped all five of the shots he faced.

Both teams return to the ice on Saturday night at the Playland Ice Casino to complete the season series. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7 p.m.

The contest pitted two teams that statistically play the hardest schedules in the country. Headed into the evening Manhattanville’s opponents held a winning percentage of 0.5975 (first nationally), while the Pioneers’ opponents has amassed a winning percentage of 0.584 (second nationally). Friday’s game was the first contest of a double header that may very well decide which team receives the Pool C bid into the 2011-12 NCAA Division III Tournament.

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