UTICA, NY – In a battle of top ten teams, the Utica University Pioneers rose to the occasion more than once. The #3 Pioneers dominated visiting #7 Oswego State from start to finish, while graduate student Mic Curran (Arlington, MA/Curry College (CCC)) brought one of Central New York’s treasured holiday traditions to life as Utica clobbered the Lakers by a 4-0 score in the 18th annual New York SASH Teddy Bear Toss game. The non-conference game was witnessed by a capacity crowd.
The Pioneers notch their eighth victory of the season, and are unbeaten in nine straight at a record of 8-2-1. Oswego is now 7-4-0 and has dropped three straight.
Shots for the matchup were 45-23 in favor of the Pioneers, and playing hand-in-hand to that advantage was a 25-16 edge in faceoffs. Lucas Herrmann (Elma, NY/University of New Hampshire (NCAA DI)) won all ten of his draws in the game.
Khristian Acosta (Port Monmouth, NJ/Mercyhurst University (NCAA DI)) paced the Utica attack with a goal and an assist. Curran, Dante Zapata (Huntington Beach, CA/Austin Bruins (NAHL)), and John Moncovich (Wilmington, NC/Hampton Roads Whalers (USPHL)) also had goals on a scoresheet dominated by upperclassmen. Eight different Pioneers had an assist, highlighted by Chris Carroll (Islip, NY/New Jersey Titans (NAHL)), who recorded his first career point on a second period helper.
Bryan Landsberger (Montreal, Quebec/Nepean Raiders (CCHL)) stopped 23 shots for his first shutout of the season, and the third of his career.
Oswego netminder Cal Schell stopped 41 shots in the loss for the Lakers.
The Pioneers came out firing with arguably their best period of the season to date. The scoring chances came in waves, with a sold-out crowd waiting with heightened anticipation for the team’s first goal.
The floodgates on the scoreboard, and from the stands, opened up at 14:05 of the first period. Remy Parker (Montclair, NJ/University of Maine (NCAA DI)) made an accurate pass from the neutral zone to spring Curran on a breakaway. Curran took Schell to the glove side and shelfed the wrist shot under the crossbar to put the Pioneers up 1-0, and get the crowd throwing an avalanche of Teddy Bears onto the ice for collection and donation to charity. Over 50,000 stuffed animals of all shapes and sizes have been collected over the life of this event.
The Pioneers led 1-0 after one period of play, and rode a 17-5 advantage in shots on goal to get there.
With the anticipated teddy bear toss in the rear view mirror, it was time to get to work. And the Pioneers didn’t let off the gas pedal.
Utica pulled away with an outstanding second period. Dante Zapata (Huntington Beach, CA/Austin Bruins (NAHL)) opened the three-goal string with a one-time wrist shot at the nine minute mark, Khristian Acosta (Port Monmouth, NJ/Mercyhurst University (NCAA DI)) throttled home his fourth of the season at 11:30, and John Moncovich (Wilmington, NC/Hampton Roads Whalers (USPHL)) rounded out the scoring at 18:24.
Neither team scored in the third period as the Pioneers saw a complete performance through to the final buzzer.
The Pioneers will play an exhibition game before the holiday break against the United States National Team Development Program on Saturday, December 10th in Plymouth, Michigan. The NTDP 18u squad is made up of top NHL draft-eligible players from the United States.