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UC clinches #1 seed in ECAC West tourney

By UC ATHLETICS

STAMFORD, Conn. - The Utica College men's hockey team secured a share of its second ECAC Men's West Conference regular season title in program history after a 4-4 overtime tie against host Manhattanville College on Saturday night at Terry Conners Rink.

The Pioneers will share the conference regular season title with Hobart College, but clinched the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament after winning the season series against the Statesmen. UC earned a bye to the semifinals of the conference tournament, and it will host a playoff game at the Utica Memorial Auditorium against either Manhattanville or Elmira on Saturday, February 23rd at 7 p.m. CLICK HERE FOR PLAYOFF TICKET INFORMATION. Manhattanville and Elmira will play in the conference tournament play-in game on Wednesday night.

“We fell into an early hole tonight and it's always tough to crawl back against a good team like Manhattanville,” said Utica Head Coach Gary Heenan. “We showed great resiliency and that's a good quality to have headed into post season play. We are certainly going to enjoy earning the top seed in the conference tournament but we know the work has just begun."

The Pioneers, who are currently ranked No. 1 in the first NCAA East Regional rankings, closed out the regular season with a program-best 20-4-1 overall record, including an 11-3-1 mark in the highly competitive ECAC West.

Utica trailed 2-0 early in the second period before charging back with four of the games next five goals to take a 4-3 advantage midway through the third period.  The Valiants, ranked No. 15 in the latest USCHO.com national poll, used an extra attacker goal with 28 seconds left in regulation to send the contest into overtime.  UC outshot the home team 4-0 in the five minute overtime, but they could not find the back of the net as they skated to their first tie of the season.

Junior classmates Adam Graff (Bear, DE/Syracuse Stars (EJHL)), Jordan Hobaica (Clinton, NY/Northwood School), and Jon Gaffney (Dover, NJ/Springfield Blues (NAHL)) each netted a goal for UC, while senior captain Evan Chlanda (Islip, NY/Springfield (EJHL)) scored the Pioneers final goal of the night in the third. Junior goalie Nick Therrien (Rochester, NH/NY Apple Core (EJHL)) stopped 29 shots in net for Utica.
Utica, currently ranked No. 2 in the latest D3hockey.com national poll and No. 7 in the USCHO.com poll, fell into a 2-0 hole over the course of the first 23:28 of the game after Manhattanville's Anton Racklin and Kevin Struempler each slipped a goal past Therrien.

Graff got UC on the board midway through the second period, his tenth of the year, and Hobaica was able to knot the score at 2-2 after a shorthanded tally with just under three minutes to go in the second frame.

The Valiants took the lead back 3:44 into the final period when Adam Young scored his fifth of the year to make the score 3-2.
Utica was able to tie the score back up at 3-3 at the 8:37 marker of the final period when Jon Gaffney (Dover, NJ/Springfield Blues (NAHL)) scored his 13th of the year.  Chlanda gave UC the lead 5:20 later off assists from Graff and senior defender Josh Schmitt (Buffalo, NY/Buffalo (OPJHL)) to push the Pioneers to a 4-3 advantage with 7:03 to go in the contest.

Manhattanville, trailing by one with under a minute to go, pulled goalie Alex Scola and used an extra skater to tie the score up at 4-4 with 28 ticks left on the clock.  Luc Van Natter netted the game tying goal for the Valiants, his 10th of the season.   

Scola stopped 36 shots on the afternoon between the pipes for the Valiants. Trever Hertz (Jaffray, British Columbia/Quesnel Millionaires (BCHL)), Cody Adams (Duncan, British Columbia/Plattsburgh (SUNYAC)), Ridge Garbutt (Toronto, Ontario/Brewster Academy (NH)) and Louie Educate (Chicago, IL/Aberdeen (NAHL)) all added assists for Utica.

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