Utica Pioneers Men’s Hockey Sweeps Chatham, Three Observations

Photo credit: Scott Kinville/315 Hockey.

By Scott Kinville/315 Hockey.

The fifth-ranked Utica Pioneers (4-2-0 overall, 4-0-0 UCHC) entered Sunday afternoon’s game looking to build off a strong finish the night before in defeating the Chatham Tigers (2-3-1 overall, 2-2-0 UCHC). In that game, the score was 3-2 entering the third period before the Pioneers scored two goals to close out in dominating fashion en route to a 5-2 victory.

Click here Utica Pioneers Men’s Hockey Team Defeats Chatham, Three Observations for a full recap of Saturday night’s game.

The Pioneers got off to a fast start Saturday night, scoring two goals within the first two minutes of the game. On Sunday, they opened the game by dominating possession and as a result, scored two early goals once again.The first one was on the power play just three minutes and forty-seven seconds into the game on a tic tac toe passing play. It started with Kimball Johnson at the point who passed down to Dante Zapata at the left goal line who in turn sent a cross ice pass to Jakob Breault for a one timer into the Chatham net from the right circle. Less than two minutes later, Dante Zapata tipped a shot from the point past Cougars goaltender Ricardo Gonazalez to put the Pioneers up by two.

After the Zapata goal, Utica had all the momentum, but that came to a screeching halt when Blake Holmes took a five minute major and game misconduct at the 6:49 mark. It took the Cougars only twenty-two seconds to light the lamp when Andrew Warhoftig sniped a shot past Utica goaltender Bryan Landsberger into the top corner from the left circle. The major penalty would prove to be very costly, as thirty seconds after the Warhoftig goal, Chatham got another goal on the same power play when Carson Grainer beat Landsberger with a wrist shot from the slot to tie the game at two – a score that would hold for the rest of the period.

Utica’s Jacob Breault stands ready to make a play during Sunday afternoon’s game at the Adirondack Bank Center. Photo credit: Scott Kinville/315 Hockey.

The Pioneers kicked off the scoring in what would be a wild second period with a power play goal when a shot front Dante Zapata deflected right to Cameron Patton who banged the puck into a wide open Chatham net from the left side of the crease. From there, Utica ratcheted up the pressure and it paid off, as three and a half minutes later, a three on two opportunity led to Utica’s Josh Kagan getting his first goal of the season by wiring a shot past Gonzalez into the top right corner of the net to make the score 4-2. Twenty-seven seconds later a rebound off a shot from the point would be backhanded into the net by Cameron Patton for second goal of the game to extend the Pioneers lead to three and end Ricardo Gonzalez’s day in net, as he was replaced by Nick Bernstein.

Although the Cougars had a new goaltender, it did not stop the red light behind him from coming on. Just over two minutes after Bernstein entered the game, Oriskany’s own Shane Murphy got his first goal of the season when he snapped a shot past the new Chatham netminder from the left circle, to make the score 6-2. The visitors got one goal back with one minute and twenty-one seconds left in the frame on a power play goal by Caden Smith, but the second period was completely dominated by the Pioneers.

The third period was very calm compared to the first two, with the least amount of shots taken of the three and no goals scored. As a result, the Pioneers skated away with a 6-3 victory and fourth win in a row. It was also their fourth straight UCHC victory, they are now in second place in the conference with ten points, just two behind first place Nazareth. The Pioneers remain at home next weekend, when they host another UCHC rival in the Wilkes Colonels for games on Friday night and Saturday afternoon at the Adirondack Bank Center.

Notes: Utica outshot Chatham 50-29…Utica was 2 for 4 on the power play, and Chatham was 3 for 6…Cameron Patton (2 goals and 1 assist) and Dante Zapata (1 goal and 2 assists) led all scorers with 3 points each, Chatham had 7 players register 1 point each…Zapata is up to 8 points on the season and is the 3rd leading scorer in the UCHC…Utica dominated in the faceoff dot, winning 48 of 74 draws led by Zapata’s 22 wins.

Three Observations From the Game

The Pioneers looked like the Pioneers

Going into this weekend’s matchup, the defensive abilities of the Chatham Cougars and in particular, their goaltender Ricardo Gonzalez was well known. The Pioneers weren’t really struggling on offense at all, but the question remained with Chatham’s shutdown capabilities would they hold Utica in check?

The answer, simply put, was no.

The Pioneers scored a combined total of eleven goals on ninety-five shots this weekend to blister a stout Cougars defense. Gonzalez in particular was given a rude welcome to Utica, as he gave up five goals in each game – prior to the Utica series he hadn’t yielded more than one goal in any of his starts this season. The Pioneers have now scored at least three goals in each game they have played this season, and the offense looks like it will only get better.

The power play worked on Sunday

Going into Sunday’s matchup, the Pioneers struggled on the power play – having scored only one goal in nineteen attempts. On Sunday, they got two goals in four power plays and the power play units looked in sync all day. With the offense already doing well at five on five, it’s a matter of time before the power play catches up, and Sunday might just be the start they needed.

The penalty kill has struggled a bit this season, and they gave up three more power play goals on Sunday – although in all fairness two of those goals came on a five minute major. Still, the overall 68.2% success rate has them second to last in the conference in that category. As the team continues to gel, the penalty killing units should improve as well.

Where will the Pioneers be in the new USCHO poll?

The Pioneers were tied for fifth in the nation in this weeks USCHO Division III poll with Augsburg,as both teams received 190 points. Will the Pioneers strong performances this weekend be enough to move them up? We’ll find out Monday afternoon.

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