Sunday, November 30, 2008


From the Rutland Herald...

Castleton men advance at Rutland Herald Invitational

It will be a rematch of the first championship game of the Rutland Herald Invitational Tournament when Castleton will take on Neumann today at 3 p.m. at Rutland Regional Fieldhouse. But the Spartans' path to the title tilt was not nearly as easy as last year.

In 2007, the Spartans routed Morrisville State, but this year the Brockport State Golden Eagles were no pushover. Castleton had to reach deep to overcome a 1-0 deficit that came 17 seconds into the game to pull out a 4-1 victory.

The opening faceoff headed toward the Brockport defensive zone but the Golden Eagles gained control of the puck and Sean O'Malley hit Tim Crowley in stride in the neutral zone, sending him in alone on Jeff Swanson. Crowley drove deep, got Swanson to commit and came back to the right, sliding the puck inside the left post. The goal energized the Eagles and they poured it on, firing 14 shots at the Castleton goaltender, but he was brilliant and turned every bid aside.

Crowley got another breakaway in a 4-on-4 situation, but this time Swanson stoned him. The Golden Eagles also got 59 seconds of 5-on-3 at the 15-minute mark, but the Spartans were able to kill off those two penalties.

"After that goal, it had to happen. There was no choice. I was either going to get yanked or I was going to save the game," Swanson said.

"I think we know we didn't play as well as we wanted to or as well as we could have, but we found a way," Castleton coach Alex Todd said. "It's part of a long hockey season. There's days when you're going to be tired, there's going to be days when it's tough, but you've got to find a way to battle and I think this was one of those days."

The Spartans regrouped at the first intermission and came out with some jump in the second, scoring twice to take the lead for good. "I don't know what it was," senior Brandon Heck said of Castleton's first-period blues. "But it was a nice sign to see in the second and in the third we found a way to win."

The tying goal was a beauty and came at 8:22. Heck and Kirk Bolduc came into the zone on a 2-on-1. Heck skated nearly to the goal line on the left, bringing netminder Oliver Wren with him, and then dropped a perfect pass to Omar Pacha, who was trailing. The sophomore defenseman blasted a one-timer into the open net.

The game-winner came at 12:39. Steve Culbertson hustled down a puck in the right corner and threw it in front of the net. Heck got his stick down and redirected it into the net. The puck was in and out in an instant but the officials conferred with each other and the goal judge and the score was awarded.

The Spartans got their own 5-on-3 at 7:24 of the third and cashed in 11 seconds later. Stuart Stefan worked the puck from the left point to Pacha in the center and he ripped a shot on net. The rebound came out to Heck at the right circle and he buried it to make it 3-1.

Freshman Jeremy Hilliard, who is a cousin of Stefan and was one of the last additions to the team, provided some insurance at 12:33 when he buried a great feed from Ross Carmichael, who was in the right corner.

It was the culmination of some solid minutes for some of Todd's first-year players."I definitely played Jeremy Hilliard and Dan Mauriello way more than about four upperclassmen tonight," Todd said. "I consciously said 'Who do I want to put out there?' I want them out there before the older guys. They're playing great hockey."

But it was also penalty killing that saved the night. Brockport was 0-for-9 on the power play, but the Spartans know they can't continue to give other teams that number of chances. "We took a lot of bad penalties, especially in the offensive zone. Myself, I was guilty of that, too," Heck said. "We have a rule about three kinds of penalties we can take and we're not following that rule. It's going to come back to bite us. Hopefully, we can learn from this."

Then there was Swanson, who stopped 28 shots. "We like to hand out awards after the game and I told him I wish I had a canoe without any paddles to give him. That's where we were in the first period," Todd said. "But he was able to keep us in it. I've challenged both our senior goalies to rise up and win games for us."

The Spartans are now 1-2-0 on the season while Brockport falls to 3-5-1.