SALEM — A look at the MASCAC standings shows just how important last night’s contest against visiting Fitchburg State was for the Salem State men’s hockey team.
The tight-checking, rivalry atmosphere brought out the best in the Vikings, who topped Fitchburg 2-1 at Rockett Arena last night to hold on to first-place in the MASCAC.
“It was an emotional game for both teams and there wasn’t a lot of give on either side,” said Salem State coach Bill O’Neill. “You really need to bring it emotionally in these situations and be willing to pay the price, and we were. I was pleased with the effort from start to finish.”
Salem (now 10-7-1 overall with 15 points in league play) had a favorable edge in puck possession and shots on goal (34-20), but the Falcons (8-10-0 overall with 10 league points) got outstanding goaltending from Ryan Wysocki to stay in it.
Fitchburg pulled the goalie for the last 90 seconds in an effort to tie the game with the extra-attacker. Crucial offensive zone faceoffs won by John Needham and Sutton Wilson and some sound team defensive kept the puck out of the cage and ensured the Vikings came away with two points.
“When the puck comes, you have to get in front of it. Anything you can do,” defenseman Keaton Cashin, a sophomore from Boxford, said of the final minute. “This was a first-place type game and we needed it to help separate us from the group to get that home ice advantage (for the MASCAC playoffs). Every game the rest of the way is a big one.”
Eric Defelice opened the scoring when he banged in a crisp pass from Chris Mastopietro in front of the cage in the first. Salem clung to the one-goal lead despite a bevy of opportunities in the second, and finally extended their advantage in the middle stages of the third.