NCAA basketball is not the only sport to experience madness in March. Due to COVID protocols, many of the UCHC teams have not completed enough games to qualify for the playoffs. This was the case on Friday night when the Nazareth College Flyers (0-7) were theoretically playoff bound while the Utica College Pioneers (3-1) were not. If everything continues to go right for Gary Heenan’s crew this week, the five games in eight days will remedy the situation.
Friday, March 19, 2021
Utica College (4-1-0, 4-1-0 UCHC) – 6
Nazareth (0-8-0, 0-8-0 UCHC) – 0
The Flyers hosted the Pioneers at Bill Gray’s IcePlex in Rochester on Friday night. The Pioneers got on the board first and never lost the lead. Dante Zapata (Austin Bruins) deflected a Vaden McManus (Hampton Roads Whalers) shot from the center lane at 15:11. Buster Larsson (Syracuse Stars) was also credited with the assist.
The Pioneers were able to take advantage of the power play to double their lead at 9:29 in the second. Zapata and Jayson Dobay (Youngstown Phantoms) teamed up to get the puck to Conor Landrigan (Binghamton Jr. Sens) whose wrister got past Nazareth’s goalie Raphael Provencher (Boston Junior Bandits).
The Pioneers finally found their rhythm in the third period. It was Landrigan who lifted the puck over Provencher’s right shoulder at 1:43. Blake Holmes (Minnesota Wilderness) had the assist. Twenty seconds later, Jamie Bucell’s (Philadelphia) beautiful edge work was able to beat Provencher to make it 4-0. Nick Yzaguirre (Charlotte Rush) and Brendan Schultz (Topeka) were credited with the assists. That was the end of the night for Provencher. He had 16 saves on the night. Gage Roberts (Carolina Eagles) took his turn in between the pipes for the Flyers.He enjoyed a solid 10 minutes before Utica struck again at 12:35 on a 4 on 3 Utica power play. John Moncovich (Hampton Roads Whalers) passed the puck to a quick moving Landrigan who moved it to behind the net. Instead of doing a quick wrap, he flipped it to a wide open Zapata standing in front of the crease. Zapata did a quick flip over Roberts’ right shoulder to make it 5-0. The final goal came at 17:11 when Bucell found Justin Allen (Rochester Monarchs) near the Flyers’ blue line. Allen did a neat spin move to keep the puck away from defenders and push it up to Schultz who lit the lamp for the final score.
It was the third time the Pioneers have scored six or more goals in a game this season. Sean Dickson (Hampton Roads Whalers) had 11 saves in his shutout for the Pioneers.
Saturday, March 20, 2021
Utica College (5-1-0, 5-1-0 UCHC) – 7
Nazareth (0-9-0, 0-9-0 UCHC) – 2
This time the Flyers traveled the NYS Thruway to the Adirondack Bank Center in Utica. They were looking to avenge their loss the night before. While they were able to score twice on Utica’s goalie Joseph Giacobbo (Rockland Nationals), it wasn’t enough. The Pioneers swept the series with a 7-2 win.
Utica took advantage of the power play. Allen and Regen Cavanagh (Sioux Falls Stampede) passed the puck around the Flyers’ zone and found Larsson wide open. His one timer shot like a rocket over Roberts’ shoulder at 10:01. The Pioneers’ next goal was also on a power play. Dobay and Brandon Osmundson (Hampton Roads Whalers) cycled the puck around the zone until they found Landrigan at the top of the slot. His donkey kick powered shot lit the lamp at 15:35. Good things come in threes. The same trio scored the third Pioneer goal at 18:47. Dobay got the puck at his own blue line and up to Landrigan. Landrigan was off balance, but somehow got the bouncing puck to Osmundson who settled it enough to go top shelf on Roberts.
The teams were playing four on four when players were sent to the box at :08 for roughing penalties. In a heads up play, Zapata passed to Cavanagh, who passed to Landrigan whose quick wrap around crossed the goal line at 1:01 to put Utica up by 4. Zapata’s night ended with a game misconduct at 2:26 for contact to the head. Moncovich and McManus worked together to give Brandon Young (Johnstown) a short handed one on one opportunity. He beat Roberts at 5:09 to put the lead at 5. Larsson and Landrigan assisted Dobay for his first collegiate goal. His slapshot from the blue line hit the back of the net at 8:06. It looked as if Giacobbo was on his way to a shutout. However, Nazareth was able to take advantage of Utica’s too many players on the ice penalty and score at 11:21. Cole Moore (Brewster Academy) and Rome, NY native, JT Entelisano (Markham Royals) assisted Casey Kubara (Philadelphia Junior Flyers). The Pioneers scored again 30 seconds later to make it 7-1. Landrigan and Moncovich got the puck to Osmundson who dangled around Nazareth defenders and lit the lamp. That was the end of Roberts’ night. He left the game with 15 saves. Provencher entered the game and stopped all 16 shots he took.
The lone goal of the third period belonged to Nazareth. Johnny Jackson (Team Maryland) scored his first collegiate goal at 12;21. He took advantage of Dobay’s misstep in the Utica zone to score unassisted. Young received a game disqualification at 18:57 when a melee broke out after a nasty hit on Bucell at center ice. He needed assistance to leave the ice. Other players on both teams received game misconducts due to the fighting. Utica’s Giacobbo ended his night with 17 saves.
Utica travels to Elmira on Tuesday (time TBA) to finish the third period of the game suspended on March 6th due to COVID protocols. Utica was leading 5-2 when the game was postponed.