UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The Utica College men's hockey team defeated visiting Buffalo State 4-3 in overtime at the 8th Annual New York Sash Teddy Bear Toss in front of a sold out crowd of 3,847 fans on Saturday night. After Utica forward Jon Gaffney (Dover, NJ/Springfield Blues (NAHL)) netted the first goal of the contest, 13:16 into the first period of play, over 4,500 stuffed animals rained down onto the ice at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. All of the stuffed animals were collected by the players, community members and volunteers and they will be delivered to needy children in the area throughout the holiday season. This is the 8th straight year the Pioneers have hosted the event and in that span they have collected nearly 20,000 stuffed animals for charity. The event has grown from just over 400 stuffed animals collected in 2005 (1,713 fans), to a sold out crowd and 4,500+ stuffed animals the last two seasons.
Junior forward Adam Graff (Bear, DE/Syracuse Stars (EJHL)) netted the game-winner for the nationally-ranked No. 10 Pioneers when he forced home his second goal of the evening with just 1:14 left on the overtime clock. Utica improved to 6-1-1 overall in Teddy Bear Toss contests dating back to 2005. Utica also improved to 7-2 overall on the year after the victory.
The Bengals (4-6-1) trailed 3-1 headed into the third period of play before scoring 6:41 into the final period and eventually sending the game to overtime after Matt Bessing knotted the score at 3-3 with 1:40 left in regulation. Mike Zennella finished the night with two goals for Buffalo, while winger Nick Melligan registered an assist on all three of the visitors' goals.
Utica netted the lone goal of the first period, which ignited the Teddy Bear Toss, but the Bengals retaliated with a goal just 35 seconds into the second stanza. Zennela registered his first of two goals to knot the score at 1-1. The Pioneers responded right away, scoring less than a minute and half later when Graff netted his first of the night off assists from Mike Slowikowski (Ewing, NJ/N.J. Hitmen (EJHL)) and Peter LaFosse (Merrimack, NH/Kimball Union Academy) to give UC back a 2-1 lead.
Before the end of the second period the Pioneers increased their lead to 3-1 when junior Trever Hertz (Jaffray, British Columbia/Quesnel Millionaires (BCHL)) punched home his fifth goal of the year off assists from senior captain Evan Chlanda (Islip, NY/Springfield (EJHL)) and team leading scorer Louis Educate (Chicago, IL/Aberdeen (NAHL)). Educate finished the night with two assists, as he and Josh Schmitt (Buffalo, NY/Buffalo (OPJHL)) assisted on the game's opening goal.
Junior goalie Nick Therrien (Rochester, NH/NY Apple Core (EJHL)) stopped 32 shots in net for Utica as he improved to 6-1 overall on the year. Buffalo State net minder Kevin Carr added 37 saves in the loss.
The Pioneers moved their record to 5-2 all-time against Buffalo State after Saturday night's victory.
Utica returns to the ice on Friday night when it travels to nationally-ranked No. 1 Oswego State to take on the Lakers in a non-conference bout at 7 p.m. Buffalo State travels to sixth-ranked Hobart to take on the Statesmen on Wednesday at 7 p.m.