By Dan Harrison
---- — SALEM — The Salem State men’s hockey team had one of its most complete efforts this season against Connecticut College yesterday.
The Vikings had some trouble beating opposing netminder Mike Petchonka but Salem State goalie Ryan Sutliffe was even more impressive before Eric Defelice netted the game-winner in overtime as SSU defeated the Camels 1-0 to move to 4-3 on the season.
“I thought both teams played with a lot of emotion. It was a tight game but both teams played extremely hard,” said Vikings skipper Bill O’Neill. “It was probably our best game from start to finish. Our shifts were short and we played with discipline in a lot of ways. And it was good to see Sutty (Sutliffe) get the big W.”
Sutliffe made 23 stops on the night and none was bigger than his third period robbery of Connecticut’s Keith Veronesi. The Vikings were on the penalty kill in the waning minutes of the third period when the Camels (0-6) got the puck to the front of the net. Sutliffe sprawled out to make the initial save before the puck made its way to Veronesi on the doorstep with plenty of open net to shoot at, but the Vikings goalie flashed the glove and kept the game at 0-0.
“That’s the backbone of a good team — you have to have good goaltending,” said O’Neill. “Our team defense was strong. We blocked a lot of shots and got a lot of pucks out of our end.”
Defelice ended the game a little over two minutes into the extra period when he executed a give-and-go with Peabody native Andrew Bucci. On a 3-on-2, Defelice crossed the puck to Bucci at the top of the left circle and the sophomore looked as if he was going to tee-up a one-timer.
But showing excellent poise, Bucci slid the puck back to Defelice who hammered the rubber into the open net.
“I saw someone cutting hard to the net and when I got the puck I was going to shoot,” explained Bucci. “But I saw Defelice open and I fed him and luckily he put it home.” Bucci, who missed a few games to start the season, was playing right wing on the Vikings top line. Yesterday was his third game back and Bucci appeared to really find his game as the speedy winger finished with an assist, four shots on net, including a hit post, and some great work on the penalty kill.
“I feel good. The first couple games I was just trying to keep it simple and get my legs underneath me and trying to get my wind,” said Bucci. “Tonight I felt like my legs were back and I could take it to the net. Playing with Defelice has really helped my game a lot.”
Bucci’s former high school teammate, freshman Alex Minter, finished with four shots on net and was excellent on the penalty kill. Minter is tied with Defelice for the team-lead in points with nine and is the Vikings leading goal-scorer with five tallies.
“I’ve been playing with him for a long time,” Bucci said of Minter. “I knew he would come in and help the team. He’s got a scoring touch that nobody else has. And he’s a good team player.”
Former Masconomet star Keaton Cashin was a big part of the strong defensive effort. He broke up a Camels 2-on-1 in the final minute with a great diving play right in front of Sutliffe.