Ram Up: Rams Win Two of Last Three, Push for Playoffs
In the past week, the men’s hockey team has made a major push for the playoffs, winning two of their last three games.
Currently the Rams, (8-14-1 overall, 5-7-1 ECAC Northeast) sit in fifth place in the conference, almost guaranteed a playoff spot. Below them are Western New England University (6th place, 4-8 in conference play) and Curry College (4-8 in conference).
“I think we’re close,” said head Coach Chris Glionna. “We have a three point lead on Western New England. They have two games remaining, we only have one. If we were to lose on Saturday and they were to win out, they could get in. They would also need a combination of Curry winning a couple of games. But I think we’re in a much better position than we were.”
Here’s how the Rams got to where there are now:
Saturday, February 14: Suffolk Wins, 3-2 in OT Against Curry
On a snowy Saturday in the North End, Tim Sprague had the overtime winner with a backhand shot on an odd-man rush.
Seven minutes into the first period, Carmen Mastrangelo gave the Rams their first lead of the night with a shot that cleanly beat Curry goalie, Brett Sinclair.
On the power play two minutes later, Curry answered back off Jordan Reed’s shot from the slot.
Curry had chances early in the second period, but failed to bury them. Around the four minute mark, Suffolk goalie, Brandon Smolarek played the puck behind his net. An unfortunate bounce put the puck on a Curry player’s stick. With a quick snap, the puck drilled the post and rolled away.
Curry continued to push against the Rams, and had them pinned in their own zone midway through the period.
With Suffolk desperately needing a break to pull ahead, they found one: Dan Mazzei deflected Connor McCarthy’s shot past Curry’s Derek Mohney to put Suffolk up 2-1.
The lead would not last, as Curry began to press again. Jordan Reed tied the game with his second of the night with three minutes remaining in the period.
In the third period, both teams traded shots, but could not crack the 2-2 tie. With two minutes remaining in regulation, Curry’s Brian White was served a five minute major and a game misconduct for hitting Suffolk’s Charlie McGinnis from behind.
Suffolk began to surge late with the man-advantage, and carried that momentum into overtime. The Pantano-Mastrangelo-Sprague line for the Rams had chances throughout the OT period. With a line change coming three minutes into the period for the Rams, Simon Leahy and Sprague worked the puck through the neutral zone. A poor Curry change had Leahy and Sprague breaking into the zone on a two-on-one. Just as they crossed the faceoff circles, Leahy passed to Sprague, who immediately deked to his backhand and buried it past Mohney.
Sprague fell to the ice against the boards, extended his arms out like Superman, and the celebration was on.
Monday, February 17: Suffolk Falls to Western New England, 3-1
From the thrill of victory, to the agony of defeat, the Rams suffered a setback on Monday; giving up two third period goals in a road loss to Western New England University.
Dan Monahan put the Golden Bears up 1-0 with just 20 seconds left in the first. WNE had heavy pressure throughout the period, firing 14 shots on goal.
Suffolk answered back in the second, putting pressure back on the Bears. With less than a minute remaining, Dan Mazzei had the equalizer: While on the power play, Mazzei ripped a slap shot through traffic and past Tim Carr to tie the game at 1-1.
Entering the third period, the Rams fell apart, and a lack of discipline cost them the game. The Rams had six penalties served against them, a total of 28 minutes.
Nick Diorio scored the game winner just nine minutes into the period, burying a rebound past Brandon Smolarek.
Throughout the period, the Bears continued to fire shots on the Suffolk net, eventually ending the period with 18.
Chris Connors added a goal four minutes later to extend the Bears’ lead to 3-1.
The Rams could not find an answer to the WNE attack, and fell by a 3-1 final.
Wednesday, February 19: Suffolk Defeats Becker, 4-2
The Rams got back in the win column Wednesday at home, largely in part to a solid team effort and a huge performance by Brandon Smolarek, who stopped 39 of the 41 shots he faced.
Charlie McGinnis put the Rams up early in the game, with a goal from close range.
Christopher Pantaleo answered right back for Becker, scoring on a breakaway to tie the game at 1-1.
Both teams traded chances into the second, but prolific play by Becker’s Gregg Hussey and Smolarek kept the game tied.
Midway through the second period, Becker’s David Kahn ripped a slapshot past Smolarek to briefly put the Ice Hawks up 2-1.
Simon Leahy tied the game on the power play five minutes later, tapping in a slick pass from Charlie McGinnis on the backdoor.
Smolarek shook off a shaky start to the period and regained his composure. Smolarek, who has stopped 114 of the last 122 shots he’s faced (93.4%), came up big when his team needed him most, including facing down a penalty shot with four seconds left in the second period.
In a hectic scrum in front of the net, Suffolk defenseman Connor McCarthy was called for a delay of game penalty for sliding the puck into his netminder.
Because the infraction occurred in the crease, Becker was awarded a penalty shot.
Gerald Owen took the shot for Becker, skating up the middle with speed, before shooting from the slot. Owen aimed glove-side high on Smolarek, but missed and nailed the glass.
“Smokes [Smolarek] was huge on the penalty shot,” said head coach Chris Glionna. “That may be the biggest moment of the season. I think that if they scored on that penalty shot, and go up there, I’m not sure what type of mental state we would have been in.”
The Rams carried the momentum into the third, and it didn’t take long for them to convert. Carmen Mastrangelo stuffed a shot past Hussey just three minutes in to put the Rams up 3-2.
Becker began to climb back in the game midway through the period, but a solid penalty kill by the Rams kept the Hawks off the board. In one sequence, Becker unleashed a salvo of shots, few of which actually reached the net. The reason? Smolarek had an answer: “Oh man. We got Benny [Tim Benedetto] taking every shot to the ankles, blocking everything. He did a lot for me.”
With a minute remaining in the game, David Lazaro had the dagger with an empty-net goal from the blue line.
“Smokes played his butt off today for us and everybody just played their hearts out,” Captain, Jon Stuffer said after the game. “It was just a great team win.”
“It’s good to play these teams with a goalie like Smokes [Smolarek] in net,” Benedetto added. “It’s a big confidence boost for us. We can give up some shots and count on him to stop them”
Suffolk Looks Ahead to Wentworth:
The Rams now look ahead to their last home game of the season against the Wentworth Leopards. The Leopards (11-11-2, 9-4, ECAC Northeast) are currently in the second place of the conference. Earlier this season, the Rams fell by a 3-2 final to them on home ice.
The game Saturday at 4:30 p.m. will be the last home game for Suffolk’s three seniors, Carmen Mastrangelo, Charlie McGinnis, and Jon Stauffer.
“It’s going to be a big night for them, and a big night for us as a team,” said forward, Tim Benedetto. “If we win against Wentworth, it’s an automatic shoe-in for us in the playoffs. It’s going to be the biggest test of the year for us.”
Leading up to the game, Stauffer said the thought of playing his last home game is “bittersweet.” “It’s moving into another chapter of my life. I’m going to miss it. Miss these guys, miss the locker room, miss everything about it.”
For live updates on the game Saturday, follow Lenny Rowe (@LRowe30) on Twitter.