Men’s ice hockey rolls past Westfield State in first round of NECHA playoffs

The Roger Williams University club men’s ice hockey team did a whole lot of celebrating Thursday night as they defeated the Westfield State University Owls 12-4 in the first round of the NECHA playoffs at Driscoll Arena in Fall River, Mass.

Tyger Allen, Herald Reporter

FALL RIVER, Mass. — The Roger Williams University men’s club ice hockey team faced off against Westfield State University in the first round of the Northeast Collegiate Hockey Association (NECHA) playoffs, defeating them 12-4. The Hawks had played the Owls twice before this season, and won both games. They entered the game outscoring the Owls 16-2 and looked to use their scorers to steal the game again.

The Hawks wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. Sophomore Logan Santos slid the puck under Westfield State goaltender Jeremy Flibotte for the first goal of the game. The Owls came back fast and notched one of their own a few minutes later, tying the game at 1-1.

After the Westfield State goal, the Hawks took over on the score sheet. A power play goal by freshman Griffin Gagne put the Hawks up by one. Shortly after, senior Jonathan Panarelli slid one under the goaltender for another goal. Gagne got his second of the game on a shot from the slot with only a few minutes remaining in the first. With just one second left, the Owls got called for a penalty, giving RWU a power play to begin the second period.

The Hawks capitalized on this when freshman Christian Brinkley scored his first of the game. The Owls received a power play of their own only a few seconds after. They scored to make it a 5-2 game. The Hawks quickly bounced back from this, scoring the next goal off a tic-tac-toe play finished by freshman Nick Hart. Junior goaltender Marc Frederick came up with timely stops to keep the Owls from fighting back.

After the Hawks got their seventh goal, Westfield state made a goaltender substitution, much to the delight of the RWU crowd. The home team scored one shortly after the substitution from another Santos shot to make the score 8-2.

Although the Hawks were up by six, Frederick refused to let the Owls stage a comeback. In back-to-back sequences, he sprawled out onto his stomach after making an initial stop. On one play, the puck found its way to the top of his crease — then kicked aside a point-blank opportunity for the Owls.

Less than one minute into the third, the Hawks scored again to make it 9-3. The onslaught continued with another goal from Hart. At 10-3, the game began to get increasingly physical, as the Owls saw their season coming to a close.

“I thought we all played together and moved the puck well,” said Brinkley. “And our goalie played out of his mind.”

Late in the game, the two teams were issued offsetting penalties from activity after the whistle. The call sent one Hawk as well as Westfield State’s Zachary Finn to the penalty box. At the next whistle, still inside the box, Finn was ejected from the game. He would later state that he was sent off for taunting a RWU player.

Sophomore Cole Foster got on the scoreboard, followed by Gagne’s third of the game, completing his hat trick. Freshman Chase Vaillancourt was also ejected from the game for a crosscheck to the head of a Westfield State player. The official ruling on whether or not he will be eligible for next game has not yet been decided.

“The [referees] said that they kicked him out just so that we could keep the game going and there would be no more fights,” said Brinkley.

The Hawks will play their next game in Nashua, New Hampshire this weekend in the NECHA tournament.