D3hockey.com Managing Editor
GENEVA, N.Y. - Geneseo has had their fair share of reliable scoring help this season. Geneseo ranks sixth in the nation in that category at 4.43 goals per game, and have been paced by four players with 30 total points or more. That's quite the potent attack to take into an NCAA tournament, but does the responsibility of scoring those pivotal goals always fall on those top end guys at this stage? The history of the tournament says that's certainly not always the case. It wasn't tonight.
On Saturday the Knights found much of their offense, and a decisively fast start from some unexpected sources. Members of Geneseo's fourth line gashed Hobart for two goals in the first 5:06 of play en route to a 3-0 lead, and the Knights held off a pronounced Hobart charge in the second and third periods on their way to a 4-2 NCAA Opening Round win over the Statesmen at the Geneva Recreation Center.
|Geneseo's Carson Kelley (Foreground) watches his third period goal sail over Hobart goaltender Frank Oplinger.
Photo: Eric "Pops" Gulseth, D3hockey.com
The win advances the Knights into next week's NCAA quarterfinal round, where they'll host Colby on Saturday, March 17th for the right to advance to Lake Placid.
"It was kind of a tale of two games for me," Geneseo head coach Chris Schultz said. "I think in the first and second we played a pretty good hockey game. We came out fast, we came out strong, and played physical. Hobart came out physical against us, so I think we matched them in that aspect. We were able to tally a couple in the first and that got some confidence going for us.... Their goal with thirteen seconds left (in the second period), it's always an omen when a team scores under a minute left. You try to avoid that type of goal against that puts the two goal lead back into play. When we were at 3-0 I was begging on the bench to get the fourth one and we couldn't find it..... Hobart played with a lot of confidence in the third period and we bent but didn't break. If it wasn't for Devin McDonald, we may still be playing right now."
Both teams opened off the first faceoff at a tempo generally befitting an NCAA playoff game. The pace of play was brisk, but both teams were also controlling time and space defensively in all three zones against a fresh group of skilled forwards. At that point, it often falls on who becomes the first team to execute.
Geneseo was that team tonight, but not even the Knights themselves could have predicted where the first salvo would be fired from. The answer came in their fourth line. Less than two minutes into the matchup, winger Dan Bosio planted a long shot onto the pads of Hobart goaltender Frank Oplinger, and forward Sotiris Athanasopoulos drove the net to flush the rebound to give Geneseo a 1-0 advantage less than two minutes at 1:55. The goal was just his second of the season.
Hobart responded with a brief, but energetic push, but that again gave way to Geneseo's band of unlikely heroes. Just past the five minute mark line four struck again to double the Knights' lead with Bosio again setting the table. Bosio aggressively drove into the slot and got the defense to bite on his bid at goal before shoveling the puck along to Joe Serpico, who also landed his second goal of the season to grab a 2-0 lead.
"The most beneficial part of our start was our fourth line getting us on the board," Schultz said. "When you can get offense from a line that's supposed to keep pucks out of your net, and they're putting pucks in their net, that lifts the team up big time. They're happy for the guys who have been putting the time in all year doing a job that doesn't always get them on the scoresheet.... It makes me feel good that guys that aren't always necessarily recognized are getting on the scoresheet."
Hobart would go on to outshoot Geneseo for the opening frame, but the damage remained on the board as the Knights held the 2-0 lead after one period. The frame was largely played five-on-five, save for a pair of penalties at the end of the frame that resulted in 4-on-4 action between the first and second periods.
Geneseo managed that sequence well to start off the second, primarily hanging above pucks in the neutral zone and denying Hobart any opportunity to alter the momentum at that early stage of the frame. But the Statesmen were far more patient than most teams fighting for their playoff lives generally are.
That patience was tested repeatedly. Hobart had to contend with another early Geneseo power play then went to work establishing strong netfront pressure, only to have those opportunities repeately thwarted by Knights netminder Devin McDonald. The forward combination of Will Harrison and Andrew Silard put together quality chances of their own in transition, but came away empty handed on multiple odd man rushes, including one that Harrison stung off the pipe.
With the situation for a largely cohesive Hobart attack getting seemingly more frustrating by the moment despite constantly compounding pressure, Geneseo tacked on another score to their existing lead. It was Bosio's turn to finish for the Knights. At 12:36 of the second, an Anthony Marra shot from the left wing leapt off the pads of Oplinger to the weak side point. Defenseman Will Campion alertly pinched and fired it back towards goal with traffic getting into the goaltender's eyes, and Bosio redirected the shot while coming across the front of the crease into the top corner to increase the Knight lead to 3-0.
Regardless, Hobart persisted and finally got their due offensively, and it seemed like no coincidence that two of the most prolific Statesmen skaters from that second period were the two to get Hobart on the board. In the last minute of the period, Silard punched home a rebound produced on a right point shot from
|Hobart's Andrew Silard scores late in the second period at the Geneva Recreation Center.
Photo: Eric Gulseth, d3hockey.com
Harrison for his fourth goal of the season. That capped off the period on a high note and got Hobart back in it at 3-1. That goal became a seismic momentum shifter for the Statesmen, while also becoming a worthwhile reward for a well played period for Silard.
"I think it meant a lot honestly," Silard said. "It could have been anyone on our team. Everyone at that point was on their top level. We didn't come out the right way in the first, but if a few bounces went different ways we could have been leading after that second period. After scoring that goal, it really energized the team and we came out playing well the rest of the game. That's all you can really ask for."
To no one's surprise, the Statesmen orchestrated a rather strong start to the third period with their lid-lifting goal and an otherwise frustrating second period behind them. A much quicker payoff awaited Hobart this time around, one good enough to get them back within a goal. Junior Cam Shaheen was the man of the hour, puffing the back of the net for a fourth time this season to pull Hobart back to 3-2.
Hobart didn't stop there in terms of their ability to generate pressure as they maintained the puck for reasonably long stretches of the third period. However, Geneseo's offense tended to strike like lightning in this one, and it surely did once more in transition to ultimately ice the game and final score away. With Hobart dictating the play in several stretches prior, Arthur Gordon gained access to the offensive blue line with freshman forward Carson Kelley calling for a pass alongside him. Gordon executed a perfect drop pass onto the tape of Kelley, and Kelley proceeded to unload one of the hardest shots of his career with a howlitzer inside the right post at 15:08.
"As everyone on the team knows, I don't have the hardest shot," Kelley said. "It was a tough start to that shift where we got hemmed in a little bit. It was a great play by Zach Lynes to get it out and Gords saw an opportunity at the end of the shift to make a statement and make this easier on us in the final minutes. I was screaming and I knew he saw me.... I didn't hear it hit anything."
Hobart tried to answer the bell for the final 4:52, including a goalie pull for the extra attacker, but McDonald made several key saves down the stretch and the Knights would not be denied despite 15 third period shots by the Statesmen in a score that finalized at 4-2. Neither team capitalized on a power play in a physical game that remained far from penalty rich. Hobart's Frank Oplinger made 23 saves in his final collegiate start. Geneseo's one goal, two assist day for Bosio set the overall pace among all scorers for the day, while McDonald stonewalled 36 of 38 Hobart shots in a game where the Knights were outshot.
Hobart wraps up the campaign at 18-6-5, and will graduate six seniors who have won a program record 80 games in their time on the shore of Seneca Lake while also compiling four consecutive tournament appearances and conference championships.
As for Geneseo, they live to fight another day at home while improving to 20-5-3, and will meet a Colby team they last met in the Colby-Bowdoin classic last season.