MILFORD, Conn. – The Sacred Heart University men's ice hockey team trailed American International College by three scores with just over three minutes to play in the game. With two late goals, the Pioneers cut the lead to one, but could not knock in the tying score as they fell to the Yellow Jackets, 6-4, at the Milford Ice Pavilion, Friday night.
The loss, their third straight, dropped the Pioneers to 3-17-5 on the season and 3-10-5 in Atlantic Hockey. AIC improved to 5-15-1 overall and 5-12-1 in league play. The win for the Yellow Jackets moved them into a tie for 11th with SHU as both teams now have 11 points in the standings.
The Pioneer comeback began with a shot by sophomore defenseman Alex Stuart (Sauk Rapids, Minn.) from the blue line that was saved and knocked in by senior forward Evan Mladenoff (Leawood, Kan.). For Mladenoff, it was his sixth goal of the season and cut the AIC lead to 5-3 with 16:52 to play. With less than two minutes remaining, sophomore forward Eric Delong (Oakville, Man.) skated the puck up the right wing and centered it in front of the net for Matt Gingera (Winnipeg, Man.) who put the finishing touch on it for his team-leading ninth score of the season.
Sacred Heart played the final 1:51 without a goalie and after sophomore defenseman Mitchell Stretch (Saskatoon, Sask.) fired a shot on goal AIC junior forward Nielsson Arcibal recovered the puck and flipped it down the ice for the empty net score to seal the 6-4 victory.
The Yellow Jackets came out and scored the first two goals of the night. Freshman forward Jon Puskar got it started at the 6:55 mark, followed by a power play goal by junior forward Richard Leitner. The Pioneers cut the lead in half before the intermission with a power play score from sophomore forward Tommy Castonguay (Rimouski, Que.).
In the second period, AIC built its lead up to three with goals by junior Mike Penny and senior Tomas Benovic coming in the first 5:09. SHU answered back just 39 seconds later as Gingera poked in his first of the night.
Sophomore goaltender Ben Meisner earned the win for the Yellow Jackets by making 34 saves, 18 of which came in the final period. For SHU, sophomore Steven Legatto (Kelowna, B.C.) started and made 10 saves, while giving up four goals. Junior Olivier St. Onge (Wickham, Que.) came on in relief and made 19 saves on 20 shots seen. The only blemish for St. Onge was a power play goal, the game winner, by AIC senior Tom Mele, 12:29 into the third.
Sacred Heart held a 38-35 advantage over American International in shots on net. It marked just the third time all season that SHU outshot its opponent.
The Pioneers and Yellow Jackets are back in action tomorrow night as the two teams face off at 7:05 pm at the Olympia Ice Center in West Springfield, Mass.