SALEM — All season long, the Salem State University hockey squad has been a third-period team.
It’s hard to argue that point after the Vikings saved their best for the final 20 minutes last night, netting four goals to secure a 5-0 win over UMass Dartmouth.
Considering Salem State outshot the Corsairs (15-2) and controlled the puck for almost the entire 20 minutes of the second period, though, the Vikings set the stage nicely for the fireworks that followed in the third.
“It was probably our best second period of the season. We went hard from start to finish, and that’s a period that has caused us problems in the past with the long change, where the benches are and where you have to get off (the ice),” explained Salem State head coach Bill O’Neill.
Improving to 10-3 after this big MASCAC win, the Vikings gained a measure of revenge against a UMass Dartmouth team that handed them their first loss of the season back in November.
Senior netminder James LaCour stopped all 15 shots he faced for the hosts. But more importantly, he quelled the Corsairs’ (8-3-1) three best scoring chances in the first period to earn his first shutout of the season.
“He was really focused the whole game and he took care of the shots he had to,” said O’Neill. “UMass has quality players; they create offense and I thought he (LaCour) was equal to that tonight.”
After the game, LaCour spoke about the mood in the Salem State locker room leading up to the third period.
“I think the biggest thing (was) we knew to just keep doing what we had been doing. We saw that we had sustained the pressure all (second) period,” explained LaCour. “If you look at us all season long, we have (scoring) outbursts in the third period. We went into the (second) intermission expecting that outburst to come.”
And when the levee broke, it broke for good.
Ian Flanagan opened the period for Salem State by lighting the lamp on an assist from Matt Genovese and Nick Lampson. Less than four minutes later Salem State tallied a pair of consecutive power play goals, then added an even strength goal — all in the span of one minute and 44 seconds to turn a tight 1-0 game into a 5-0 blowout.
Senior Mike Genovese and Giancarlo Capodanno netted the power play goals for SSU, with Josh Franklin adding the fifth and final goal seconds later on a spectacular feed from Chris Costigan.
After an eight-day layoff, the Vikings took the ice last night determined to start the second half of their MASCAC schedule on the right foot. Derek Crocker promptly capitalized on a loose puck in front of the UMass Dartmouth net, burying home the rebound just over eight minutes into the first. His linemates, Flanagan and Lampson, helped gain control of the puck off of the faceoff and put two solid shots on net before Crocker slipped the puck past Corsairs netminder Collin Tracy.
UMass had only eight shots in the opening period, but on three different occasions the Vikings defense got a little lackadaisical and all three times the Corsairs were able to create some offense. However Salem State’s man between the pipes was stout from the get-go, though as LaCour made a pair of point blank saves midway through the first. He followed that with a tremendous right-pad save on a Ryan Ruddock opportunity in the waning 20 seconds of the period.
“Well, that (a goal in the first period) certainly would have given us confidence. We scored two first period goals to beat them the first time, so our emphasis was on the first period,” explained UMass Dartmouth coach John Rolli, a Salem State graduate.
“We had a good first period, then we get outshot like that in the second. Salem State was clearly better than us in all facets of the game and all over the ice tonight.”
The Vikings were terrific on the penalty kill as well. The man-down unit for Salem State allowed only three shots and one scoring chance in 18 minutes worth of work. Afterwards, LaCour talked about what its like to be the goalie when Salem State is shorthanded.
“We have one of the best penalty kills in the nation and it shows,” said LaCour. “Our senior leadership is great and we get a lot of great play from some underclassmen as well.”