The Men’s Ice Hockey team celebrating during a game. (image courtesy SNHU Penmen)

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The Southern New Hampshire University ice hockey team scored four times in the first period, including three goals in the opening five-plus minutes, to earn a 5-4, non-conference victory over Becker College at the Ice Den on Tuesday.

Seniors Chris Moquin (Hooksett, N.H.) and Kyle Valliere (Goffstown, N.H.) joined sophomore Brett Strawn (Wareham, Mass.) with a goal and an assist each, while senior Matt McLelland (Reading, Mass.) handed out a pair of helpers. Five different Penmen found the back of the net Tuesday, as senior Timothy Baylis (West Haven, Conn.) and junior Joseph Berardi (Burlington, Mass.) accounted for the remaining SNHU scores.

The Hawks’ offense was led by John Dutney, who assisted on all-four Becker goals. Corey Schafer turned in a three-point effort with two goals and an assist, while James Wallace chipped in with a goal and an assist in the setback.

Despite neither side seeing game action in nearly a full month, the two teams quickly shook the rust and combined for seven first period goals. Southern New Hampshire opened the game’s scoring less than two minutes into the contest, as Valliere grabbed the puck at the offensive blue line, maneuvered around three Becker defenders and tucked a shot just inside the far post for a powerplay marker at 1:46. The lead doubled 1:11 later, when Valliere forced a Hawks’ turnover that landed on the stick of Strawn, who deposited his third of the year into the back of the net.

After Baylis punched home a rebound on the man advantage at 5:22 to extend the SNHU lead to three, Becker responded with a two-goal burst midway through the stanza. Wallace got the visitors on the board with help from Schafer and Dutney with 12:10 remaining before Brandon Morgan rifled a shot short-side to close the gap to a single goal at 13:38.

The see-saw battle continued into the final two minutes of the first with each side tacking another goal onto its total. Moquin one-timed a powerplay feed from Strawn to the back of the cage with 1:54 to go before the intermission, and it took Schafer a mere 31 seconds to trim the deficit back to one.

Southern New Hampshire’s special teams unit struck again in the early stages of the second, as its man-down unit reestablished a two-goal cushion 45 seconds into the frame. After the Penmen were whistled for an infraction at 36 seconds, the Hawks won the ensuing draw back to the point. Sophomore DJ Goldstein (Wareham, Mass.) broke up the initial feed to the blue line before Berardi sprung him free on a breakaway. Goldstein’s shot to the far post was kicked away, but the rebound landed right on the stick of Berardi, who slid it into an open net for the lone goal of the period.

Neither side was able to break through for the first seven minutes of the third before Schafer netted his second of the night on a wild powerplay goal. After collecting the puck just beneath the leftwing circle, Schafer moved along the goal line before attempting to cut in front of the goal just outside the crease. The puck was poked off his stick and ricocheted up in the air, where it bounced off the Penmen goaltenders back and into the net to make it a one-goal affair with just under 13 minutes to go.

It would be as close as Becker would come, as sophomore Kurt Gutting (Weymouth, Mass.) made three point-blank saves in the final 40 seconds of regulation to secure the victory. Gutting stopped 17 shots over the final 20 minutes of play in relief of senior Ryan Slatky (Manchester, N.H.), who made 26 saves through the first two periods.

Southern New Hampshire returns to action Saturday (January 13) when it hosts Suffolk University at the Ice Den in a rematch of the Manchester PAL/Stovepipe Tournament final at 7 p.m.

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