#3 Pioneers Fall In OT In Epic Clash At #1 Adrian

ADRIAN, Michigan – The Utica University men’s ice hockey team made a strong run at defending national champion Adrian, but the Bulldogs made one more play in the end to keep their unbeaten streak intact at 32 games in a marquee matchup. 56 seconds into overtime, Matus Spodniak scored the game-winning goal on the rush as the #1 Bulldogs prevailed over the #3 Pioneers by a 4-3 score at Adrian’s Arrington Ice Arena. 

Utica opens its 22nd regular season with an 0-1 record, while Adrian starts at 1-0. It is the sixth consecutive meeting between the two programs that has been decided by a single goal, with all eight all-time meetings decided by two goals or less. 

The Pioneers were out-shot the Bulldogs by a 41-24 margin. Utica did dominate the faceoff dots by winning 39 of 66 draws on the night. The Bulldogs were 1-for-2 on the power play, while Utica did not convert either of its chances. 

The Pioneers got goals in the matchup from Jakob Breault (Acton Vale, QC/Alaska-Fairbanks (NCAA DI)), Matt Wood (Garnet Valley, PA/Richmond Generals (USPHL)), and Regen Cavanagh (Chesapeake, VA/Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)). Breault, Mic Curran (Arlington, MA/Curry College (CCC)), and Kimball Johnson (Coppell, TX/University of St. Thomas (NCAA DI)) added the primary assists on the Pioneer goals. Matus Spodniak scored twice, including the game-winner, to lead Adrian. Brad Somers had two assists. 

Bryan Landsberger (Montreal, Quebec/Nepean Raiders (CCHL)) turned aside 37 Adrian shots in the loss, while Nic Tallarico notched the win for the Bulldogs. 

The teams wasted little time getting in gear offensively to start off the matchup, with three goals in the first ten minutes. At 4:08 of the first period, Adrian’s Matus Spodniak opened the scoring off the right wing as he floated the puck inside the left wing post past Landsberger for a 1-0 lead for the home team.

The Pioneers went right to work to assail the early lead. At 7:57 of the first period, two of the team’s new transfers connected to tie the game. Defenseman Kimball Johnson (Coppell, TX/University of St. Thomas (NCAA DI)) scooped the puck to the net front with a great head fake at the right point to slide it behind returning Adrian forward Ty Enns and onto the pads of Adrian netminder Nic Tallarico. The rebound landed on the tape of Utica newcomer Jakob Breault (Acton Vale, QC/Alaska-Fairbanks (NCAA DI)), and the forward flushed the puck into the back of the net to bring the game square at a goal apiece. 

1:16 later, the Pioneers put themselves in the drivers’ seat for the remainder of the first period. Senior forward Mic Curran (Arlington, MA/Curry College (CCC)) kept the puck alive along the right wing boards in the offensive zone, and it filtered back to sophomore forward Matt Wood (Garnet Valley, PA/Richmond Generals (USPHL)). Wood unloaded a shot from above the circles, which beat Tallarico at 9:13 of the frame for a 2-1 lead. That’s the way the score would remain through the end of the period. With a 76 percent faceoff percentage in tow for the frame, the Pioneers led in shots by a 10-8 margin and carried a majority share of the play. There were no penalties to speak of on either team. 

The Pioneers transformed a dangerous situation at the front of their own net into a 3-1 lead in the opening minute of the middle stanza. On the heels of a frantic scramble at the front of their own net, the puck leaked out to Breault along the left wing wall. Regen Cavanagh (Chesapeake, VA/Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)) skated out ahead of the play, and Breault hit him in stride for the breakaway. Cavanagh cashed in on the chance with his first goal of the season at 0:42. It was Cavanagh’s fifth career goal against the Bulldogs, and the fourth of his career at Arrington Ice Arena alone.

Adrian crawled back within one at the 12:05 mark of the second period as Matthew Rehding deflected a shot by defenseman Chase Spencer to trim the Pioneer lead to 3-2. That margin held through the end of the period.

A Remy Parker (Montclair, NJ/University of Maine (NCAA DI)) minor for high sticking at 3:45 put the Bulldogs on their first power play of the game, and the home team capitalized to pull level. After the Pioneers cleared the zone multiple times on the penalty kill, a rebound jumped out to the stick of Riley Murphy on a netfront flurry. Murphy jammed in the rebound past Landsberger, and the score was tied for a second time in the game, this time at 3-3, with 14:37 to go. Neither team scored for the remainder of regulation, which set the stage for Adrian’s overtime winner on a give-and-go play. 

The two sides will meet again on Saturday at 3:00 p.m.

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