SALEM – John Needham (Medford, MA) scored his second goal of the night with less than a minute remaining in the game to lift the Vikings of Salem State past the Owls of Westfield State 4-3 Thursday night at Rockett Arena. The victory propels Salem State’s Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference record to 9-2-2 and their regular season record 10-7-3. The Owls drop to 4-9 in the MASCAC and 8-11 on the year.
Offensively, the Vikings were productive in the first half as they peppered Owls’ net minder Jonathan LoParco (Vaughan, ONT) with 15 shots on goal. LoParco kept Salem State off the scoreboard for the majority of the period despite the frequent pressure. In return, the Owls helped LoParco out by netting the game’s first goal in the first five minutes of the contest. Carl Greco (Niagara Falls, ONT) and Aaron Clancy (Quincy, MA) found Daniel Backstrom (Helsinki, Finland) on the weak side of the net were Backstrom beat Jason Pucciarelli (Newmarket, ONT) low on his glove side. Westfield State couldn’t contain the Vikings’ the entire period though as Salem State finally got one to strike the back of the net after Needham punched home a Michael Chen (Rockville, MD) rush at LoParco that trickled out to the crease to tie the game at 1-1.
It was a quiet second period with a lot of action in the neutral zone that eliminated much offense from the Vikings. Meanwhile, Pucciarelli was put to work by the Westfield State forwards who put 14 shots on the junior goaltender. Despite only getting off five shots in the period, Salem State helped out their hard working goalie with a lead change after Callum Hofford (Woodbridge, ONT) gave the Vikings a 2-1 edge when he received a rebound with an open right side of the net for the easy score. Captain Michael Casale (Stoney Creek, ONT) and Dan Holland (Woburn, MA) were credited with the assists.
In the final period, the Owls ran into some penalty trouble in the opening minutes after Jake Suvak (Parma Heights, OH) was assessed a 10-minute game misconduct after hitting Vikings’ forward Brandon Wolfe (Granger, IN) in the head against the boards. The penalty actually worked in the Owls favor as they tacked on two goals after a costly two-minute minor for interference by Derek Makimaa (Swartz Creek, MI) that put the game even at four skaters a piece. Greco notched the first goal as Westfield State made their living on the weak side of the net when he beat Pucciarelli low and away to tie the game at 2-2.
The Owls took a 3-2 lead when Francis-Xavier Girard (St. Lazare, QUE) beat Pucciarelli on his blocker side. However, the Vikings wouldn’t go down without a fight as they answered the bell one-minute later when Wolfe got his redemption with a rebound goal after Aleksi Mustaniemi (Vihti, Finland) put a shot on LoParco. In the final minute, Needham broke the 3-3 tie with a crafty goal using his quick hands to shove home a rebound goal on LoParco’s glove side after Brandon Platt (Pittsburgh, PA) wristed a shot on the opposite side of the net. The Vikings held off the Owls’ late efforts after pulling LoParco for an extra skater to secure a 4-3 conference victory.
Needham finished the game with two goals while Casale added two assists for the Vikings’ in their win. Jackson Leef (Fort Wayne, IN) led the Owls skaters with two points.
Both goaltenders played an outstanding game as they each denied 29 shots.
Salem State’s run through the MASCAC continues on Feb. 9 when they travel to Plymouth State to take on the Panthers at 6:00 p.m. Westfield State will host the Falcons of Fitchburg State on Feb. 4 at 5:35 p.m. – Courtesy of Westfield State University Sports