UC splits weekend against conference foes

Jim McLaughlin
Sports Editor

The Utica College men’s ice hockey team split the weekend against ECAC West opponents Elmira College and Hobart College.
UC faced off against Elmira first to start off the weekend, and it was battle to the very end. The Pioneers were able to take the lead first off the stick of sophomore Mikhail Bushinski in the first period. Bushinski’s goal was off the passes from fellow classmates Dalton Carter and Brett Szajner. With about six minutes left in the first period, Bushinski gave the Pioneers a 1-0 lead going in to intermission.
The Pioneers were looking to give themselves some distance in the second period of the game, and they did just that. Sophomore Alex Brissette continued his hot start with his fourth goal of the season to give UC a 2-0 with 12 minutes left in the period. However, Elmira did not go away early. A minute after Brissette’s goal, Elmira came back with a goal of its own to cut the lead down to one.
The goal by Elmira didn’t seem to shake the Pioneers as freshman Alex Roberts scored his second goal of the season with seven minutes left in the second period. Elmira proved to be resilient as they cut the lead back to one again two minutes later.
The Pioneers headed into the third period with a 3-2 lead and had every intention to keep it that way. Freshman Hayden Dawes continued to display his talent early on in his career by netting his third goal of the season. UC maintained a two goal lead through most of the third period, but Elmira was able to get a goal late in regulation to cut it back down to one. However, home ice seemed to be in the Pioneers’ favor as they fended off Elmira to secure the victory 4-3.
UC led the entire game, and its defense seemed to be a main factor in the victory against Elmira.
“The team played well against Elmira, had the lead and never gave it up,” head coach Gary Heenan said. “We had to kill a 5-on-3 for three minutes, so blocked shots and defending our crease area was our strategy. Our defense has a long way to go…played too loose.”
The Pioneers needed to recover quickly from Elmira as they hosted a tough Hobart team the following night. The short rest didn’t seem to be enough as Hobart was able to get an early jump on UC, scoring the first goal of the game with five minutes left in the first period.
The momentum from Hobart’s late goal in the first period seemed to carry over in the second. The Statesmen scored their second goal of the game not even two minutes into the second period to lead 2-0.
The early score by Hobart was it for the second period as they led the Pioneers 2-0 heading into the third period. The 2-0 hole didn’t faze the Pioneers as they were ready to get back into the game.
“We have some talent to score quickly so we thought we had a good chance to come back especially at home,” Heenan said.
UC did just that as they were able to get on the board off the stick of sophomore Kevin Valenti with a little over a minute in the third period. The momentum was on the Pioneers’ side, but Hobart proved to be a tough team against UC and responded with a goal of its own. The Statesmen were able to hold off the Pioneers and score two more goals late in the third period. Hobart gave UC its first loss of the season 5-1.
“Hobart was our worst performance of the year,” Heenan said. “We were out worked all night.”
The Pioneers hope to get back to its winning ways on a road trip this weekend. They faceoff with Neumann University on Friday, and Manhattanville College on Saturday. UC looks to battle all week and prepare for both matchups.
“Today was a battle day in practice and we need to get our competitive level back up,” Heenan said.