CHARLESTOWN, Mass. (January 6, 2018) – First, the assembled crowd on Saturday night was able to see a scoreless first period. Then, they saw the two teams combine for three power-play goals in the second period. Next, they were able to see Suffolk surge to a 3-2 lead early in the third. Later still, they saw the Ravens draw even at 3-3 with eight minutes to play.
All in all, you might say it was a "see-saw" affair at Emmons Horrigan O'Neil Memorial Rink.
In the end, it was forward Alex Lester (Methuen, Mass.) who provided the game's lasting image for the crowd to take in, as he continued his stellar-thus-far sophomore campaign with the game-winner. He buried a chance from out in front of the crease just 22 seconds into overtime to send the Franklin Pierce University men's ice hockey team spilling off the bench in jubilation, as the Ravens opened the season's second half with a 4-3 win in non-conference play.
With the win, Franklin Pierce improves to 3-9-1 and snaps a seven-game winless streak (0-6-1), which dated to Nov. 18. Suffolk falls to 6-7-2 with the loss.
For the Ravens, it marked the first overtime victory since a 3-2 triumph at Assumption on Nov. 19, 2014. Franklin Pierce had gone 0-2-6 in eight overtime decisions since.
With frigid temperatures outside, and not much better inside O'Neil Rink, neither team was able to thaw out the offense in the first period on Saturday night. Things began to heat up, though figuratively only, in the second period, as the two teams traded goals in 5-on-3 situations.
First, sophomore forward James Morrissey (West Haven, Conn.) slipped a pass across the top of the crease from the left side to junior forward Nicholas Fotiu (Falmouth, Mass.), who had the easy, one-time finish into an all-but vacant net from in front of the right post. Senior forward Jonathan Haun (Buffalo, N.Y.) added an assist as well on Fotiu's third goal of the season, at 4:47.
Suffolk answered at 14:34, on a two-man advantage of its own. The initial shot on the play by junior defenseman LJ Fellows from the left point was blocked by a defenseman, but the puck came right back towards Fellows on the rebound. He stepped into another shot from the top of the left circle and wired it to the top-left corner, to cleanly beat senior goaltender Tom McGuckin (Clayton, N.J.) over the blocker shoulder. The brothers Henry, junior defenseman Sean and junior forward Connor, provided the helpers on Fellows' first goal of the campaign.
Franklin Pierce took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission on the strength of a power-play marker in the final minute. This one was of the more-traditional, 5-on-4 variety, at the 19:22 mark. From the left-wing half wall, senior forward Blake Manginell (Troy, Mich.) sent a pass across to the right point for sophomore forward Matthew Toombs (Pleasanton, Calif.), who let fly his shot from there. Suffolk junior goaltender Michael Levine made the initial save on the play, but Haun was on the scene at the top of the crease to jam home the rebound for his fourth goal of the year.
Suffolk struck twice in a span of just 39 seconds in the first half of the third period to surge to a 3-2 lead. First, on the power play at the 7:28 mark, sophomore forward Brian Brooks tracked down a rebound outside the right post and flipped it over a sprawling McGuckin to notch his fifth goal of the season and tie the game. Freshman forward Matt Bucher and Connor Henry provided the assists.
The Rams took the lead shortly thereafter, on the game's first even-strength score, at 8:07. On a breakout and just inside his own blue line, freshman forward Joseph Mortillaro chipped the puck off the glass and into the neutral zone. Junior winger Mikhail Bryan got on the other end of the clearance and struck off down the right-wing side like a lightning bolt. Using his speed to create his own opportunity, Bryan then picked the top-right corner, over McGuckin's glove hand, from the right circle, to collect his fifth goal of the season as well. Fellows added the secondary assist to make it a two-point night.
The Ravens set the stage for overtime by drawing even at 3-3 at the 12-minute mark. With multiple players jamming for the puck amid a scramble in and around the crease, the puck ultimately kicked free into the high slot. Pinching in from the blue line, junior defenseman Jack Williams (Suffield, Mass.) was the first man there, stepped into a shot and put it cleanly into the back of the net for his third goal of the season. Senior forward Evan Marek (Enfield, Conn.) picked up the lone assist for his work in front of the net on the play.
It all served as a crescendo, which hit its loudest note less than a half-minute into overtime. On a quickly developing play on the only possession of the extra session, the puck wound up on the stick of Lester, who had time and space in the low slot. He did not miss on the opportunity, snapping his team-leading ninth of the campaign past Levine and into the left side of the goal at the 22-second mark, while Fotiu and Morrissey wound up with assists.
The goal touched off a raucous celebration, as Lester flung his body into the glass along the left-wing half boards, before being mobbed by his teammates, who came storming across the ice from the bench. On the other side of the coin, Levine took a moment to collect himself and quietly skated back to the bench, while Fellows fished the puck out of the net and fired it down the rink in frustration.
McGuckin (2-6-1) was credited with 61 saves -- a career best, which included a 30-save performance in the scoreless first period -- against 64 shots in the crease for Franklin Pierce. Levine (6-5-2) stopped 25 of 29 shots in defeat for Suffolk.
The Ravens return to the ice on Jan. 12-13, when they visit Post for a non-conference weekend series. Opening faceoff is set for 8 p.m. on Friday and 7:15 p.m. on Saturday at Sports Center of Connecticut in Shelton, Conn.
For more information on Franklin Pierce Athletics, please visit the official website of Franklin Pierce Athletics (http://athletics.franklinpierce.edu). Also be sure to follow the Ravens through the Department of Athletics' official Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/FranklinPierceRavens), its YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/franklinpiercesports) and its Twitter feed (http://twitter.com/FPUathletics). Fans wishing to purchase Franklin Pierce ice hockey apparel can do so at the Department of Athletics' online store (http://athletics.franklinpierce.edu/store).