by Ray Biggs
Managing Editor, D3hockey.com
BOSTON -- Both youth and age were most certainly served in bushels in Saturday's NCAA opening round game at ninth-seeded UMass Boston. The host Beacons got big contributions from their freshmen tonight, as all four of their goals came from the rookies that complimented the remaining seniors from their last national semifinal run. The eleventh-seeded Manhattanville Valiants entered as a red hot squad laden with experience, and that experience showed on the night's scoresheet.
In the end, it was Manhattanville's experienced contributors that paved the way to victory for the Valiants over a big night for the Beacon rookies. Senior forward and UCHC co-player of the year Matt Lippa had a hat trick that culminated with the game-winning goal in the third period, three other seniors also scored, and fourth year netminder Tyler Feaver fended off 36 shots as Manhattanville won their opening round game by a 6-4 score at the Barry Ice Rink on the campus of UMass-Boston.
Manhattanville advances to face second-seeded SUNY Geneseo in a quarterfinal game on Saturday, March 16th at Ira Wilson Arena. The Valiants are 10-1-2 in their last thirteen games and are now 18-8-5 as they continue their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2008. UMass Boston was unable to cash in on their new lease on life after an eleventh-hour move up the Pairwise rankings got them the last at-large spot into the field following their semifinal ouster in the NEHC Tournament. They wrap up with a 19-8-1 record.
The Valiants won the special teams battle as both power play units scored in a 2-for-4 performance, and they held the Beacons to an 0-for-3 performance. Beacon netminder Bailey MacBurnie made 19 saves.
Both teams came out looking for any advantage they could get off the opening draw. Coupled with continual end-to-end action on both ends, both teams also brought a heavy side to their game early on with numerous seismic checks defining the course of early action, particularly those in the neutral zone as the sides tried to open up the ice for themselves.
A counterattack out of the neutral zone led UMass Boston on the path to the game's first goal. Beacon freshman forward Stevie Bryant stole the puck away at the Manhattanville blue line and immediately grabbed a step on the defender, then zipped a wrist shot past Manhattanville netminder Tyler Feaver to grab a 1-0 lead on the unassisted goal.
Manhattanville turned to their veterans to offer up a quick response. At 10:03, Nigel Slade worked the puck up to Casper Dyrssen. As Dyrssen carried to the middle, he got the UMass Boston defensive pairing to sag towards the bottom of the zone, and he fired a shot through a gap between the two and past Bailey MacBurnie to knot the score at one.
From there, it became Manhattanville's turn to put the onus on their hosts as the furious first period action continued. The door was opened on a Bryan Carter high sticking minor against UMass Boston, and Manhattanville's power play began to take up residence on the scoreboard on their way to their first lead of the game, and multiple leads they created on the man advantage. With 3:11 to go, a transition pass from the left wing was crossed in to Cory Anderson. Anderson's shot attempt was blocked away, but landed right on the stick of Bryan Platt, who canned it to pull ahead 2-1.
The Beacons did not go quietly out of the first period. With under a minute to play, Evan Heidt made a big play high in the defensive zone as he stole the puck, then chipped it past the defender trying to hold the zone to create an odd-man rush. He came quickly down the left wing, then threaded the puck across to a prepared Jeff Skinner, who ripped the puck into a huge gap in the net on the lateral pass to even the score at two after one period of action. UMass Boston outshot the Valiants 13-10 in the period.
Manhattanville re-gained control on their second power play of the night to start the second period. After a boarding minor on the Beacons' Ethan Nitkin, it was star senior forward Matt Lippa who stepped to the forefront. Deep into the power play, defenseman Oscar Arfelt stepped to his left and slid the puck to Lippa at the top of the circle. Lippa uncanned a heavy one-timer that knocked off MacBurnie's water bottle and gave the Valiants a 3-2 lead.
Defense and goaltending took over much of the rest of the period with both teams getting critical stops from their backcheckers, and from their goaltending to keep the score tight. It stayed tight long enough for UMass Boston to re-knot the score at 17:26, and the goal was nothing short of a highlight reel effort. Chris Peters came into the zone with a head of steam and carried down the right wing side of the slot while shielding the puck from a defender. He snapped a shot from a thin angle that came to rest on the right side of the net, and he immediately retrieved it and wrapped the shot to the opposite post counterclockwise and in. The outstanding play gave us a 3-3 tie after two periods.
The two second period scorers again were featured in the third period. Peters delivered the Beacons into the lead as Daniel Nachbaur forced the issue to get to the front of the net, and Peters banged the puck in for his second of the game at 9:41. Not to be outdone, Matt Lippa pulled the Valiants back even at 14:10.
That set up Lippa's pivotal game-winner as the capstone of a strong performance. Lippa polished off the hat trick for the Valiants with just 1:04 to go, and an empty net goal with fifteen seconds left by Nigel Slade sealed the win as Manhattanville moves on.
Game time on Saturday is set for 7 p.m.