By Evan Wheaton
SPRINGFIELD – Despite accumulating 11 penalties, the Springfield College men’s club ice hockey team was able to kill 10 of them on root to their 4-2 victory over the University of New Haven.
“We have a lot of confidence in our defense, they do a great job for us and work hard in practice,” Springfield Head Coach George Johnson said. “Our PK is definitely a strength on our team. Obviously (we) don’t like seeing the penalties and that’s something we’re going to clean up, but we’re extremely confident on the PK.”
Joey Partridge found the net with 11 minutes left in the first period with the help of Doug Shane and Evan Studley.
“Evan (Studley) and Rob (Joyal) set the tempo up on the forecheck,” Partridge said. “Right place, right time. Puck’s coming to me and I found a hole.”
The forward’s goal wasn’t just the first of the game – it was the first of his career.
“First goal feels good, so weight lifted off my shoulders for sure,” Partridge said.
Now a junior, Partridge has transitioned into more of a leader now that he’s an upperclassman. With nine freshmen and one transfer student, the upperclassmen have been showing the new players the ropes as they integrate into the college level.
“It doesn’t matter who scores, as long as it’s someone with an ‘S’ on their chest,” Partridge said. “I want to be a leader that the kids can follow. Just play the game the right way, that’s what we preach and play your style. Don’t do what you can’t do.”
Less than a minute after taking a shot on goal, Liam Whitman found the puck again with the help of Hayden Choate and Nick DeMaio. Positioning himself in the back of the offensive zone, he made a snipe to extend the Pride’s lead before the end of the first period.
The Pride entered the locker room for the first intermission with momentum.
“That’s what we’re trying to do,” Springfield Head Coach George Johnson said. “Our forecheck was working today, we got a lot of opportunities off of that, and Whit (Whitman) is someone that we expect to be scoring for us.”
After just one penalty in the first period, the Pride found four more in the second.
When they went on their first power play of the game after a roughing penalty on Chargers’ Jamie Blum, the Pride immediately found themselves on even ice again less than a minute later when Jamie Matteo was called for slashing, creating a 4-on-4.
Despite the plethora of opportunities given to New Haven in the second period, the Chargers were unable to capitalize on them.
“We just have faith in everyone on the ice,” Partridge said. “We say, ‘Do your job and don’t do other people’s jobs.’ If you’re in the right place, especially on the PK, I think they got one power play goal at the end there, but we have a really solid kill.”
Eight seconds into the third period, John Danahey banked a shot through the five-hole to give the Pride a 3-0 lead. As penalties mounted on both sides, the Pride once again scored on a four-on-three opportunity with a goal from Alex Gonfrade.
“I think a lot went right, we had a lot of pressure in the offensive zone,” Springfield goalie George Matteo said. “I appreciated them coming back, we had a tough loss Friday, but we really came back today. Great defensive zone play, we really pulled it together.”
New Haven didn’t get on the board until there was 11:54 left in the game. After pulling their goalie and gaining their second score on the night, the Chargers had yet another power play to add to their expanding list.
Facing a six-on-four disadvantage, the Pride defense once again killed the penalty and ultimately kept New Haven from cutting the deficit even more.
“They started putting a lot of pressure on, but, you know, we just had to come together as a group,” Matteo said. “Everyone did their jobs, I know I just had to stop the puck (and) my defense will be there to clear them out.”
Although things got increasingly out of hand for the Pride as the game went on, their penalty kill proved to be enough to keep New Haven at bay.
Photo courtesy of Evan Wheaton