By Dan Harrison
---- — SALEM—The Salem State men’s hockey team has been prone to inconsistency this season and with first place Plymouth State visiting last night, the Vikings needed three full periods of tough, disciplined hockey.
The toughness was there from the first puck drop all the way until the final whistle, but the discipline didn’t follow suit. SSU took a few bad penalties, failed to clear the puck at some pivotal points and fell behind by a pair of goals in the first period as Plymouth State left Rockett Arena with a 4-1 win over the home club.
“It’s tough. We just need to come together better as a team and be a little more mentally tough. We have to work harder and work smarter,” explained senior captain Matt Kenline. “We have a good team in that locker room but we have to come to battle every night. Especially against a team like Plymouth.”
SSU (8-6-1) committed the first three penalties of the game and had five total in the first two periods. The Panthers only scored one power-play goal but the increased time SSU spent shorthanded disrupted its momentum. The Vikings dropped to 5-3-1 on the season.
“It was an emotional game. We took a couple penalties early and that took us out of the way we wanted to play,” said Vikings head coach Bill O’Neill. “They (PSU) capitalized on their opportunities and they were able to get a lead and open the game up. We weren’t able to match that and that’s how it went.”
The Panthers (12-4) are the top team in the Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference with an 8-0-1 conference record after last night’s game. The Vikings skated and hit with Plymouth State and even outshot the Panthers 35-31 but SSU took a majority of its shots from outside and couldn’t quite corral any rebounds.
The visitors meanwhile did their best to put bodies in front of SSU netminder Ryan Sutliffe and used looks to jump out to a 2-0 lead.
Alex Cottle and Tieg Alward both scored backdoor goals in the first period with Cottle taking a pass from behind the net and Alward getting a cross-slot feed. On both goals SSU had the opportunity to clear the puck into the neutral zone but couldn’t.
“They’ve (SSU) got a very aggressive goalie. He (Sutliffe) is very good so we wanted to have a net-front presence to keep him in the crease. If we allow him to come out he’s almost unbeatable,” explained Plymouth State coach Craig Russell. “He’s always on his angles, he’s very sharp and controls his rebounds well so we wanted to make sure and establish ourselves in front of him to keep him deep in the net so we’d have some holes to shoot at.”
Freshman Andrew Bettencourt scored a backdoor goal of his own on a nice feed by Eric Defelice after Chris Mastropietro went hard and won the puck in the corner. Bettencourt’s marker made it a one-goal game but a power-play goal from Zach Sarig to end the second and a shorthanded goal by Phil Arnone in the third iced the game for PSU.
Plymouth State 4, Salem State 1
at Rockett Arena, Salem
PSU: 2 1 1 — 4
SSU: 0 1 0 — 1
First period: PSU, Alex Cottle (Dave Walters, Andrew Wigg), 13:15; PSU, Tieg Alward (Brantley Sherwood, Kyle Weiland), 16:12.
Second Period: SSU, Andrew Bettencourt (Eric Defelice, Chris Mastropietro), 12:01; PSU, Zach Sarig (Kyle Greco, Cottle), 16:20, PP.
Third Period: Phil Arnone (Wigg), 7:11, SS.
Saves: PSU, Jack Astedt 34; SSU, Ryan Sutliffe 27
Records: PSU, 12-4-0; SSU, 8-6-1.