NORTHFIELD, Vt. – Sophomore forward Tyler Piacentini (South Weymouth, Mass.) scored a natural hat trick and added two more assists to lead the Norwich University men's ice hockey team to a dominant 9-1 victory over Plymouth State in its season opener on Friday night at Kreitzberg Arena.
Piacentini broke a 1-1 tie with 1:19 left in the first period and sparked a run of eight unanswered goals for Norwich (1-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC East) as it cruised to its second straight win over Plymouth State (0-1-0, 0-0-0 MASCAC) in a season opener. The Cadets beat the Panthers 10-4 to open last season as well.
Piacentini banged home a loose rebound in the crease after Plymouth State goalie Gordon Ceasar made an initial save on a shot by Austin Surowiec (Louisville, Ky.) to give Norwich a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission.
Norwich struck twice in the second period with Piacentini scoring both goals at the 12:32 mark and 16:47 mark of the middle frame to push the lead to 4-1. He roofed a shot over Ceasar's shoulder for his second goal of the night off assists from Brian Rowland (Waltham, Mass.) and Ryan Whitell (Calgary, Alberta).
Piacentini completed the natural hat trick just over four minutes later when once again he found a loose rebound and beat Ceasar after he couldn't cover up an initial shot from the point by Cody Smith (Hudson, Mass.)
Piacentini's line accounted for five of Norwich's nine goals on the night with Surowiec netting the other two goals and Nick Pichette (Massena, N.Y.) picking up three assists.
Senior Gerard McEleney (Canton, Mass.) and Whitell each notched a goal and an assist in the victory. McEleney got Norwich on the board at the 9:31 mark of the first period when he banged home a rebound that sailed high off the glass off the stick of Alec Thieda (Rochester Hills, Mich.). The assist was the first of three on the night for Thieda.
Freshman forward Payton Baldillez (Arlington, Texas) potted two more goals in the third period to help Norwich pull away with five goals in the final frame.
Plymouth State briefly tied the game at 1-1 when the Panthers capitalized on their first power play opportunity of the game. Sophomore forward Mike Economos collected his own rebound after a NU player blocked his initial shot in the high slot. He quickly found his rebound and beat NU freshman goalie Braeden Ostepchuk (Lethbridge, Alberta) low to the right side of the net. Chad Barthelmess picked up the assist on Economos' goal.
Norwich responded just 1:43 later though as Piacentini gave the Cadets the lead for good.
Ostepchuk made nine saves to pick up the win in his first collegiate start for Norwich. Ceasar made 30 saves for Plymouth State before being pulled for Mac Haight late in the third period. Haight made two saves on five shots.
Norwich outshot Plymouth State 41-10 for the game and finished 2-for-6 on the power play, while the Panthers were 1-for-3.
Norwich will return to action next Friday night when it hosts St. Michael's at 7 p.m. at Kreitzberg Arena in its ECAC East opener.