Danforth’s OT Game-Winner Gets Pioneers Past AIC 5-4

WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Justin Danforth's (Oshawa, Ont.) goal 3:31 into overtime gave the Sacred Heart men's hockey team a 5-4 win over AIC Friday night at Olympia Ice Center. The Pioneers led the Yellow Jackets 4-2 heading into the third period.

Danforth tied a career high with three points on the night. Jeff Carroll (Kingston, Ont.) and Drew George (Regina, Sask.) each had a goal and an assist with Spencer Graboski (Quesnel, B.C.) tying a career-high with two assists.

AIC (9-19-1, 8-13-1 AHA) scored first Friday night, as Chris Porter knocked in the rebound of a Blake Peake shot to give the Yellow Jackets a 1-0 lead 3:03 into the period. Sacred Heart (9-20-0, 8-14-0 AHA) leveled the game 1-1 with 15:17 to play in the first, as Ben Lake (Calgary, Alb.) fired a Spencer Graboski (Quesnel, B.C.) pass past Hunter Leisner. George also had an assist on the goal. AIC almost took back the lead with 12:20 remaining in the period, but Alex Vazzano (Trumbull, Conn.) stopped a Jason Popek shot at the goalpost to keep the game tied.

 The Pioneers took a 2-1 lead with 11:21 to play in the first when Danforth found Carroll right in front of the AIC net. Carroll scored to extend his point-scoring streak to five games. The Yellow Jackets went on the power play with 10:37 remaining in the first, but had just one chance at tying the game. Jon Puskar took a shot from the slot that Vazzano made a sprawling save on, with the Pioneers defense clearing the zone to end the power play. Sacred Heart also caught a break near the end of the period when Popek hit the goalpost on a 2-on-1 breakaway, allowing Vazzano to cover the puck. AIC outshot Sacred Heart 11-9 in the first period, but it was the Pioneers taking a 2-1 lead into the intermission.

Sacred Heart extended the lead 5:32 into the second period when Jordan Minello (Sweaburg, Ont.) put in the rebound of a Jacob Brightbill (Anneville, Pa.) shot to make the score 3-1. Carroll almost made the score 4-1 two minutes later when he had a rebound chance hit the crossbar with the AIC net open. The Pioneers went on the power play with 8:14 remaining in the second period, but managed just one shot on the man advantage. George put Sacred Heart up by three with 3:52 to play in the second, using some fancy stickhandling in front of the AIC net to get a backhand shot past Leisner to make the score 4-1. The Yellow Jackets got back within two with 2:11 left in the period when Porter scored his second goal of the game from Popek.

AIC closed to within one with 12:40 remaining in the third period. Puskar finished off a breakaway with David Norris and Brandon Lubin to make the score 4-3. Graboski almost got the Sacred Heart advantage back to two goals with 11:15 to play but Leisner made a diving save. With 2:55 to play in the third, the Yellow Jackets tied the game on a goal by Dan Clairmont. Sacred Heart went on the power play with 1:45 remaining when Alexander MacMillan went to the penalty box for hooking. The Pioneers had two chances to win the game in regulation, but David Iacono (Newmarket, Ont.) hit a goalpost and George put a shot in Leisner's glove.

Less than two minutes into overtime, Vazzano had to make a diving save to stop a Racobaldo drive from the blue line. Erlich Doerksen (Toronto, Ont.) then had a shot from the point stopped by Leisner, who also made a save on the rebound chance by Ben Lake. On their next rush up the ice, Sacred Heart got the game-winner. Iacono got the puck into the zone to Carroll, who fed the puck to Danforth in the slot. Danforth shot the puck into the top corner of the net to get the Pioneers the 5-4 win.

Sacred Heart outshot AIC 39-29 for the game, including a 30-18 advantage in the last two periods and overtime. Vazzano made 25 saves for the win with Leisner making 34 for AIC.

The two teams will meet again Saturday night at 8:05 at Milford Ice Pavilion.