Golden Bears Rally Past Salve Regina in CCC Opener, 3-2

Western New England earned its second straight overtime win to open the season on Friday night, as the Golden Bears rallied to defeat Salve Regina 3-2 in overtime (photo by Rachael Margossian).
Western New England earned its second straight overtime win to open the season on Friday night, as the Golden Bears rallied to defeat Salve Regina 3-2 in overtime (photo by Rachael Margossian).

Graham scores game-winner with 26 seconds remaining in overtime

WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (November 3, 2017) –
The Western New England University ice hockey team rallied to earn a 3-2, overtime victory against Salve Regina University on Friday evening in the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) opener for both teams at the Olympia Ice Center. 

The Golden Bears, who are now 2-0 (1-0 CCC) for the first time in head coach Greg Heffernan's tenure, erased a 2-1 deficit with under seven minutes remaining in the third period, before posting their second straight overtime triumph. Salve Regina drops to 1-1 (0-1 CCC) with the loss.

Top Performers
• Junior forward Steve Beck (Milton, N.Y.) factored into all three Golden Bear goals, as he scored the game-tying goal in the third period and also helped set up Western New England's other two tallies.   
• Junior defenseman Connor Graham (Norfolk, Mass.) netted the game-winner for the Golden Bears late in the five-minute overtime period.
• Junior goaltender Kevin Gollmer (Flourtown, Pa.) finished with 33 saves and did not let a puck get past him over the final 38+ minutes of the contest, making Western New England's comeback possible.

• Freshman defenseman John McLean (North Andover, Mass.) and sophomore forward Eric Lipa (Lockport, N.Y.) both scored for the Seahawks.

Game Review
• The Golden Bears were whistled for a penalty less than a minute into the contest and Salve Regina took advantage of the power play opportunity, as McLean scored on a feed from freshman forward Danny Eruzione (Winthrop, Mass.) to give the visitors a 1-0 lead at the 1:46 mark.
• Western New England pulled even just over three minutes later, however, when senior captain Matt Smethurst (Rexford, N.Y.) won the puck in the corner and sent a pass to freshman defenseman Adamo Giacomin (Richmond Hill, Ont.), who found the back of the net with a slap shot from the point for his first career goal.
• Gollmer made several key saves later in the period to keep the score tied, including a stop on a breakaway by sophomore forward Jack Billings (Oak Lawn, Ill.).
• Salve Regina regained the lead on a goal by Lipa 6:04 into the second period. The Seahawks had a chance to add to their advantage with 8:05 left in the middle frame when senior forward Pat Thompson (Hellertown, Pa.) was awarded a penalty shot, but Gollmer came through with another huge save to keep Western New England's deficit at one.
• Still trailing by the same margin late in the third period, the Golden Bears were able to tie the score again when Smethurst found Beck in the high slot, and the junior ripped a wrist shot under the glove of Salve Regina junior goalie Blake Wojtala (Trenton, Mich.) with 6:34 remaining in regulation.
• Gollmer turned away a flurry of Salve Regina shots early in the extra period, before Western New England secured its second straight overtime victory with just 26 seconds left in the contest. Beck carried the puck through the neutral zone and muscled past his defender at the blue line before sliding a pass over to Graham, who was open in the slot and sent a wrist shot past Wojtala for the game-winner.

• The Seahawks outshot the Golden Bears 35-30 and held a 38-27 advantage in the faceoff circle.
• Beck has recorded a team-high five points (three goals, two assists) through two games this season.
• Western New England's win over Salve Regina marks its first victory against the Seahawks since February 10, 2013.

Up Next
Western New England and Salve Regina will be right back in action on Saturday as they complete their two-game series at the Portsmouth Abbey Ice Rink in Portsmouth, R.I. Opening faceoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.