Photo credit: Scott Kinville/315 Hockey.
By Scott Kinville/315 Hockey.
To say the #2 Utica Pioneers Men’s Hockey Team is on roll would be an understatement at this point.
Coach Gary Heenan’s team is now 12-2-1 overall, and after completing a weekend sweep of the Neumann Knights on Saturday night, they have a perfect 10-0-0 record in the UCHC. The Pioneers are now undefeated in thirteen consecutive games and have not lost since October 29th (the loss against the USNTDP Under 18 was an exhibition and does not count toward their record).
After returning from their end-of-the-semester break last weekend with two hard-earned victories at Manhattanville, the Pioneers returned home to the friendly confines of the Adirondack Bank Center to continue their UCHC schedule against Neumann. On Friday night, the Pioneers shut out the Knights 5-0, led by a fifteen-save effort by Bryan Landsberger and a three-point (two goals and one assist) night from Mic Curran. They also put fifty-one shots on Neumann goaltender Cole DeFazio, who is the brother of former Utica Comet Brandon DeFazio.
After back-and-forth plays early in the first period on Saturday night between the teams, including an early two-on-one stop by Utica goaltender Bryan Landsberger, the Pioneers turned it on. They peppered DeFazio, who was making his second straight start of the weekend, throughout the rest of the period. The Pioneers got on the scoreboard at the 8:59 mark on the power play when Remy Parker beat DeFazio with a shot from the right circle to give the Pioneers a 1-0 lead. It was Parker’s team-leading ninth goal of the season.
That lead would not last long, only fifteen seconds in fact, as Brady Mistler was sprung on a breakaway and snapped a shot into the top right corner of the Pioneer net to tie the game. Mistler is from the Hampton Roads Whalers team of the USPHL, as are Jaxon Rutkowski, John Moncovich, and Brandon Osmundson of the Pioneers.
Utica regained its lead with just under four minutes remaining in the first period when Jakob Breault sent a pass from the Neumann goal line to Connor Fedroek, who fired a laser from the top of the right circle off the inside post and in. It was Fedoreks first goal of the season and gave the Pioneers a 2-1 lead going into the first intermission. Utica outshot Neumann 24-8.
The Knights opened the second period with some offensive pressure of their own but it would not last long, and the Pioneers blew the game open with three goals. The first came when Brandon Osmundson wrapped the puck around the back of the Knight’s net and slid the puck under DeFazio to a wide-open Matt Wood – who redirected it into the open net.
Four minutes later, Buster Larsson sent a long outlet pass from the Utica zone to Dante Zapata, who was waiting at the Neumann blue line. Zapata skated the puck in and ripped a shot from the right circle that trickled through DeFazio and to John Mocovich, who put home the loose change. Moncovich wasn’t done, as with twenty-nine seconds left in the period, a flurry of shots in front of the Neumann net led to the senior winger putting another rebound past DeFazio to send his team into the second intermission with a 5-1 lead. The Pioneers registered another twenty-eight shots on goal in the second period.
The Pioneers salted the game away in the third period when Lucas Herrmann fired a shot past DeFazio from the right circle at the 12:10 mark to make it 6-1. The Knights would get a power play goal four minutes later from Yancy Whitaker, but it was too little too late as the Pioneers skated away with a 6-2 victory.
Game Notes: Utica outshot Neumann 70-23…Utica was 1 for 3 on the power play, while Neumann was 1 for 2…Jayson Dobay led the Pioneers in points with 3 (all assists), and Luke Croucher led the Knights in points with 2 (both assists)…Remy Parker led the Pioneers in shots with 8, while Luke Croucher led the Knights with 3 shots…Utica plays again next Friday and Saturday nights at Lebanon Valley.
Three Observations From the Game
The Pioneers Played Their Game
When the Utica Pioneers are successful, they play a fast game with quick breakouts out of their own zone and relentless forechecking in their opponent’s zone. They checked all the boxes on Saturday night.
Neumann was overwhelmed by the pressure from the Pioneers and by the end of the second period, they looked worn down. When the shots are 52-16 after two periods, and you’re on the 16 end of it, that tends to happen.
John Moncovich and Jayson Dobay Had Great Weekends
Forward John Moncovich is starting to heat up, as he had three goals over the weekend to go along with six total shots. After scoring nineteen goals last season, he got off to a slow start this season but appears to be putting that in the rearview mirror. Going forward the Pioneers will need his net-front presence and scoring touch and if this weekend is an indication, it looks like Coach Heenan can count on that.
Defenseman Jayson Dobay snapped out of a four-game points drought in a big way this weekend. He had one assist on Friday night and on Saturday night he led all scorers with three points and also registered six shots. Dobay is a part of an offensively gifted defense corps that includes the likes of Justin Allen, Connor Fedorek, and Kimball Johnson among others. The Pioneers already have the fourth most prolific offense in Division III and with their defense providing offense like it can, that number will go higher.
Give Credit Where It’s Due
Neumann goaltender Cole DeFazio faced a lot of shots this weekend – a total of 121 between the two games. Even though the Pioneers scored five goals Friday night and then six more on Saturday night, if it weren’t for DeFazio those goal totals could have been much higher. He played very well given the barrage of rubber he faced during his weekend stay in Utica.
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