Wentworth rallies for opening win
Leopards extend win streak to 11 games, will face Norwich
PLYMOUTH, N.H. -- Wentworth rallied for three unanswered third-period goals Wednesday night, as the visiting Leopards pulled out a 3-1 victory against Plymouth State in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Division III Men's Ice Hockey Tournament at a sold-out Hanaway Rink. The win, Wentworth's first NCAA tournament victory in seven tries, was also the 100th career win for sixth-year head coach R.J. Tolan, who now sports a 100-51-11 mark as the Leopards' head coach.
Wentworth (21-6-1) extends its win streak to a school-record 11 games and moves on to the NCAA quarterfinal round this Saturday against Norwich (23-2-2.) It will be the fourth all-time meeting between Wentworth and Norwich, with the Cadets winning each of the three previous meetings. Plymouth State had its nine-game unbeaten streak (8-0-1) snapped and completes the season at 17-7-3.
Junior Reed Rushing and senior Mike Paglino tallied power play goals six minutes apart early in the third period as the Leopards rallied from a 1-0 deficit after two periods. PSU had two power play opportunities in the final nine minutes but couldn't tally the tying goal, and freshman Kevin Crowe clinched the victory for Wentworth with an empty-net goal at the 19:54 mark.
Freshman Alex Peck made 16 saves to earn the victory in the Leopards' goal, improving to 13-2-1 on the season. Junior Jack Astedt made 19 saves for PSU.
After a scoreless first period, each team had power play chances in the second frame but came up empty. The Panthers broke through with a power play goal with 5:15 to play as senior Chris Zaremba was parked at the goal mouth and redirected a centering pass from junior JC Richardson from the left circle for his 11th of the season. PSU had another man-advantage chance but the Leopards killed off the power play and the home team maintained a 1-0 lead into the third period.
Wentworth got the tying goal just 2:21 into the final stanza on a tic-tac-toe play, culminating with a wrist shot by Rushing from the right circle that beat the goalie to the left blocker side. The Leopards took the lead six minutes later when Paglino stole the puck in the Panther defensive zone, went in alone, and made a nifty shift to his backhand before sliding the puck into an empty net.
The Leopards nearly took a two-goal lead with four minutes to play but a shot by sophomore Fred Gervasi rang off the goal post. Crowe sealed the win with his 12th of the season into an empty net at 19:54.
Wentworth finished 2-for-5 on the power play, while Plymouth State was 1-for-5 with the man-advantage.
Wentworth's 21 wins on the season is tied for second-most in program history, joining the 2002-03 edition, which finished 21-5-3 on the season.
The Leopards are making their fifth NCAA tournament appearance after capturing the ECAC Northeast Championship. The Panthers, under second-year head coach Craig Russell, wrap up their season after claiming the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) Championship, the first title in the program's 40-year history.