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Utica Wins Fourth UCHC Championship


By Warren Kozireski —

Top-seed Utica exploded with four unanswered second period goals to overcome a 1-0 first period deficit and went on to defeat visiting and second-seed Nazareth 5-3 to win their second consecutive and fourth overall UCHC title and the NCAA tournament auto-bid that comes with it.

Michael DiSchiavi put Nazareth up 1-0 with an assist from Spencerport’s Nick Charron for the only goal of the opening stanza.

The Pioneers tied it just 1:45 into the second on a goal by senior Brandon Osmundson and tool the lead at 9:04 when tournament MVP Dante Zapata found the back of the net.

A five-on-three power play goal by senior Buster Larsson and an even strength tally 96 seconds apart later in the period made it 4-1 Utica before Nazareth got back into the game converting a two-on-one with freshman Blake Frost finishing off a pass after a breakout pass from Williamsville’s Griffin Green.

Golden Flyers freshman and UCHC All-Rookie team selection Logan Tobias (West Seneca) pulled Nazareth to within a goal with eight minutes remaining, but Utica scored an empty-netter to seal the victory.

“I think the players thought it might come a little easier than that, so we kind of came out a little laxed; it was not a first period that we liked,” Utica head coach Gary Heenan said. “We’re a veteran team, so we made some adjustments and came out and seized it in the second.

“It’s kind of nice that we got pushed tonight; we haven’t been pushed a lot and I think it will help our guys.”

Utica remains ranked first in the nation (USCHO poll) and expects to get a first round bye in the NCAA tournament when the selection are announced Monday morning.

They got knocked out in the quarterfinals last year by Adrian, in 2-19 in the quarterfinals by Oswego and in the first round in 2018 by Geneseo. They made the field in 2020, but the tournament were cancelled.

“I think we have a good mix of guys; a couple of us have been here for five years and we have a bunch of fourth-year seniors and a bunch of seniors that transferred…we’re such a tight-knit group and I think it shows on the ice,” Hilton native and assistant captain Justin Allen said.

(Photo by Warren Kozireski)

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