No. 2 Utica Wins 20th Game - Pioneers Take One Step Closer to Regular Season ECAC West Title

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Utica 3, Manhattanville 2 - Men's Hockey Final    

Stamford, CT (2/15/2013) – The nationally-ranked No. 2 Utica College men's hockey team took one stride closer to its second ECAC Men's West Conference title in program-history after a 3-2 victory over host Manhattanville College Friday night at Terry Conners Rink.  A tie in Saturday's season-finale against the Valiants would secure UC the top seed in the conference tournament for the first time since the 2004-05 season. 

UC, which is ranked No. 1 in the first NCAA East Regional Rankings released Tuesday, won its 20th game for the first time in program-history and improved to 20-4 overall and 11-4-0 in conference action.  Manhattanville dropped to 13-9-2 overall and 6-6-2 in the ECAC West.  

"We've done a great job of taking it one game at a time this year and I think tonight was another good example of that.  Now we can concentrate on coming away with the same type of result tomorrow," said Utica Head Coach Gary Heenan, who won the 164th game of his career. "One of the goals we set at the beginning of the year was to win the regular season series against each ECAC West opponent and we are happy to have accomplished that goal."

Junior forward Jon Gaffney (Dover, NJ/Springfield Blues (NAHL)) netted what proved to be the game-winner with 3:42 left in the contest.  Sophomore forward Louie Educate (Chicago, IL/Aberdeen (NAHL)) snapped a 1-1 tie 5:23 into the third period when he scored his 17th tally of the season for UC. 

UC goalie Nick Therrien (Rochester, NH/NY Apple Core (EJHL)) stopped a total of 30 shots over the course of the final two periods to secure the Pioneer victory.  Utica came away with a 37-36 shot advantage on the afternoon, despite earning a 15-6 advantage after one period of play.  Therrien's stellar play down the stretch earn him first star honors in the contest and his 18 wins in net this year leads all of division III hockey. 

UC's Eric Peterson (Newton, NH/Valley (EJHL)) got the Pioneers off on the right foot with his fourth goal of the year 7:11 into the first period of play.  Sophomore Justin Hogan (Val Therese, Ontario/Brooks Bandits (AJHL)) registered two assists on the afternoon, while Gaffney also finished with two points on one goal and one assist.

The Pioneers led 3-1 with 3:42 left in the game before Manhattanville cut UC's lead in half, 3-2, when Jason Bowles netted his seventh goal of the year with 2:13 left on the game clock.  The Pioneers were able to fend off the Valiant comeback to earn the key conference victory.   

Educate, who has scored big goals when it counts all year, currently leads the ECAC West and ranks 15th nationally with 1.42 points per contest.

The Pioneers will take on the Valiants in their final regular season game on Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. Utica has secured an ECAC West Conference Tournament home playoff game and the Pioneers will host either Neumann, Manhattanville, or Elmira on Saturday, Feb. 23rd at 7 p.m. at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.  Click here for post season hockey ticket information.