WORCESTER, Mass. (December 1, 2019) – As the snow began falling outside, Saturday afternoon became a day of historic proportions for the Franklin Pierce University men's ice hockey team inside the Worcester Ice Center. The Ravens were able to grind out a 4-1 win over Wilkes in the title game of the Steve Hoar Memorial Invitational, hosted by Becker, to claim the program's first-ever tournament title. Further, it was the team's sixth consecutive win, which established a new program record, and the squad extended its program-record unbeaten streak to eight games (7-0-1).
With the win, Franklin Pierce improves to 7-2-1. Wilkes, which received votes in this week's USCHO Division III poll, falls to 7-2-0 with the loss.
The Ravens were outshot for the first time since Nov. 12, and by a handy margin as well, as Wilkes ran up an advantage of 46-28. It marked the first time all season Franklin Pierce had surrendered 40 shots or more, and snapped a string of four straight games where the Ravens had collected 40 or more shots of their own. Still, Franklin Pierce killed all five power plays granted to the Colonels and a 45-save effort from junior goaltender Ian Wallace (West Islip, N.Y.) led the way to the victory.
The Ravens were at their best in the first period, when they held a 13-8 advantage in shots and cashed in a pair of goals to take the lead for good. Sophomore forward Sean Crowley (Sandown, N.H.) opened the scoring at the 10:01 mark, when he finished off his first goal of the season, off of assists from junior forward Justin Blanchette (Monroe, Conn.) and senior forward Matthew Toombs (Pleasanton, Calif.).
Franklin Pierce doubled the lead just under six minutes later, at 15:52, off of a faceoff play in the right-wing circle. Senior forward James Morrissey (West Haven, Conn.) won the faceoff back to fellow senior forward Alex Lester (Methuen, Mass.), and the former cut towards the net, while the latter curled towards the top of the left circle. Lester flipped a shot towards the net from there, and Morrissey deflected it home at the top of the crease to pick up his fifth goal of the campaign. It marked the fourth straight game with a goal for Morrissey and extended his point streak to six games (4-3-7).
After the end of the first period, the Ravens would be under siege for the remainder of the afternoon, as Wilkes piled up 38 shots over the final two frames, while holding Franklin Pierce to just 15 shots over the same span. Franklin Pierce was able to bend but not break, and then came up with arguably the game's most important goal at the 12:08 mark of the second period to push the lead out to 3-0 and provide a little more breathing room. Deep in the right-wing corner, Crowley worked the puck free to sophomore forward Ryan Gorbett (Cleveland Heights, Ohio) at the bottom of the right circle. Gorbett now had numbers out front and slipped a pass to freshman forward Jason Ladzinski (Norcross, Ga.) for the quick finish on the latter's fourth of the year.
Wilkes was held scoreless until deep into the third stanza. The first of the season for sophomore forward Devon Schell finally got the Colonels on the board at 15:09, though it would prove too late for Wilkes to mount a comeback. Junior defensemen Charlie Spetz and Ryan Solomon chalked up assists on the play.
Franklin Pierce salted away the win, and the tournament title, with an empty-net power-play goal at 19:14. A long pass ahead from junior defenseman Paul Antkowiak (Salem, N.H.) set up sophomore forwards Chris Stevenson (Arvada, Colo.) and Anthony Nikolopoulos (Burlington, Mass.) with a 2-on-0 against the empty net. The former fed the latter for Nikolopoulos' third goal of the weekend.
The Ravens return to the ice on Saturday, Dec. 7, when they travel to Saint Anselm for a Northeast-10 Conference contest. Opening faceoff is set for 4 p.m. at Sullivan Arena in Manchester, N.H.
For more information on Franklin Pierce Athletics, please visit the official website of Franklin Pierce Athletics (https://www.fpuravens.com). Also be sure to follow the Ravens through the Department of Athletics' official Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/FranklinPierceRavens), its YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/franklinpiercesports) and its Twitter feed (http://twitter.com/FPUathletics). Fans wishing to purchase Franklin Pierce ice hockey apparel can do so at the Department of Athletics' brand new online store (https://www.shopfpuravens.com).