By Dan Harrison
---- — SALEM — The Salem State men’s hockey team doesn’t play any exhibition games during training camp so the first game of the season usually has its ups and downs.
Last night in the team’s first bout, the Vikings found their game sometime during the second period already trailing Wentworth by a goal.
In the third, SSU found the back of the net and carried the momentum into overtime where Chad Goodwin netted the game-winner less than a minute in to give the Vikings the 2-1 victory over a Leopards’ team that was playing its third game of the season.
“Training camp seems so long and we don’t play any exhibition games. We get right into the action and (tonight) was like a mid season game right away,” said SSU (1-0) head coach Bill O’Neill. “I thought we matched them (Wentworth) throughout and we got stronger as the game went on. It was a hard fought, exciting game to watch and be a part of.”
After Salem State misplayed the puck behind its own net, Wentworth’s (1-2) Dan Szerlip zipped a pass to Sean McLaughlin in front of the net for a bang-bang goal in the first period. The Vikings picked up their play in the second period and completely turned the tables on the Leopards in the third.
Out of all the hard work came a bit of fortune when Andrew Bettencourt threw the puck to the front of the net and it hit off a Wentworth skate and slipped past net minder Joel Miller.
“It was wild. There was a lot of energy in the first period we were trying to get the nerves out,” explained SSU defensemen and former Masco stud Keaton Cashin. “Down a goal we fought back and were able to hang in there. You could see the momentum turn.”
After a lengthy puck battle along the Wentworth bench just inside the Vikings blue line early in overtime, SSU was able to dig the puck out to Kyle Phelan, who flicked it high toward the opposing zone.
Wentworth misplayed the puck and a streaking Goodwin took advantage by getting behind the defense as he somehow got the puck past Miller.
“He (Phelan) made one of those NHL flips over everyone’s head and it landed in a good spot,” said O’Neill referring to the set up. “Then Chad was able to get a swipe on it.”
Cashin was exceptional as the left side guy on the Vikings second defensive pairing. He’s aggressive offensively but he can forecheck like a forward and O’Neill even spoke about possibly putting him in front of the net on the power play.
Last night though, Cashin was one of the team-leaders in penalty kill minutes and his physical presence helped turn things in the second period. Just after the first intermission, Cashin put a shoulder into a Leopard forward in front of the net that sent the winger flying all the way to the boards.
“He (Cashin) plays defense for us but he’s more than capable of playing up front or in front of the net on the power play,” noted O’Neill. “He’s versatile and he loves to play.”
Another local guy, Peabody’s Alex Minter, was in the Salem State lineup playing right wing on the third line. The freshman took a little time to find his bearings but in the second period he facilitated offensively and almost lit the lamp himself.
He fed linemate Tanner Fahlstedt just inside the blue line and then drove to the net. Fahlstedt fired a shot that bounced toward Minter’s stick but the freshman couldn’t control the puck with some open net in front of them. It was enough however to draw praise from his head coach.
“Alex is a skilled and talented player. This was the quickest game he’s ever seen,” said O’Neill. “He had some chances. And, he made some chances himself in the second period with some exceptional play.”
Not to get lost in the shuffle was Viking goalie Ryan Sutliffe who made 30 saves in the win including a handful of stops that came on Leopard one-timers just outside the crease.