Christopher Kilmer, Plymouth State Athletics
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Sophomore Alec LeFave (Hudson, N.H.) blasted home a feed from junior Ludvig Steenberg (Stockholm, Sweden) 1:37 into overtime to lead Plymouth State University to a 5-4 win over Salem State University in Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) men's ice hockey action at Hanaway Rink on Thursday night.
LeFave put a big hit on a Viking skater at the blue line, which sent the puck to Steenberg, who streaked down the ice on a three-on-one break. Steenberg dished to LeFave at the left circle and the 5-10 forward's wrist shot beat Salem State goalie Jason Pucciarelli (Newmarket, Ont.) for the game-winner. The Panthers earn their fourth straight win to improve to 5-1-0 overall and 3-1-0 in MASCAC play. Salem State suffers its third straight conference loss to dip to 2-3-0 (1-3-0 MASCAC).
The rematch of last March's championship contest lived up to its billing. The two teams battled back and forth, with Salem coming back from 1-0, 3-1 and 4-3 deficits to force overtime. Junior Quinn Carroll (Amherst, N.H.) gave the Panthers a lead at the 8:41 mark of the first period when he took feeds from Steenberg and freshman JR Barone (West Chester, Pa.) to beat Pucciarelli to the top right corner on a PSU power play.
The Vikings answered three minutes later when a shot from the blue line by sophomore Callum Hofford (Woodbridge, Ont.) was tipped in front by senior Daniel Campbell (Waterloo, Ont.). The puck floated over the shoulder of junior goaltender Evan Morelli (Reading, Mass.) on the blocker side to even the game at 1-1.
The Panthers dominated the second period, outshooting SSU by an 11-3 margin. Pucciarelli came up with some huge saves, including an incredible glove save on a one-timer from the right slot by junior Tim Perron (Northborough, Mass.) early in the period. Plymouth State finally put one past the senior at the 10:49 mark. Freshman Brett Backman (Cos Cob, Conn.) took the puck from the right corner and found junior Michael Covach (Shillington, Pa.) all alone in front of the net. The 5-8 forward planted the puck top shelf to the glove side.
Less than four minutes later Carroll struck for the second time when he slipped a loose puck in the crease into the bottom right corner to extend the PSU lead to 3-1.The Vikings got a power play goal from sophomore Brandon Wolfe (Granger, Ind.) with 2:14 left in the period after collecting a deflected shot and beating Morelli low to the left side.
Salem State evened the score at 3-3 with an unassisted power play goal from Hofford, when his slap shot from outside the left circle went high to the blocker side. The Panthers rallied with a power play goal of their own, just 1:17 later. Senior Caleb O'Brien (Saginaw, Mich.) blasted a one-timer to the top right corner off feeds from junior Ryan Stevens (Colleyville, Texas) and sophomore Victor Bergstrom (Angelholm, Sweden).
But the Vikings answered yet again, with just over five minutes remaining. Hofford planted his second goal of the night on a shot from the left side that got past a screened Morelli to even the game at 4-4. PSU nearly had a game-winner in the final 30 seconds of regulation. With a scrum in front of the Salem State goal and Pucciarelli splayed out on the ice a Vikings defenseman cleared a bouncing puck from just in front of the crease to preserve the tie, ultimately setting up LeFave's overtime heroics.
Pucciarelli was the hard-luck loser, falling to 2-3-0 despite making 29 saves as PSU outshot the Vikings 34-15 for the game. Morelli made 11 stops to remain unbeaten (5-0-0).
Hofford finished with two goals and an assist for the visitors, while Carroll struck twice for the home team. Steenberg had three helpers for the Panthers.
Plymouth State is off until Saturday, Nov. 25, when the Panthers travel to Connecticut to face #4 Trinity College in a non-conference game. The Vikings are right back in action on Saturday (Nov. 18) when they travel to Fitchburg State for a MASCAC contest.