PROVIDENCE, R.I.-Johnson & Wales University (8-5-1) scored a power-play goal with 1:18 left to slip past the SUNY Potsdam men’s hockey team (5-7-1) 3-2 on Friday night. Freshman forward Dylan Vander Esch (San Jose, Calif./Hartford Wolfpack) and senior forward Zach Blake (Campbellford, Ontario/SUNY Plattsburgh) each scored for the Bears.
Potsdam got off to a strong start. At the 6:27 mark, Vander Esch put the Bears up 1-0 on the power play with assists from senior assistant captain Ken Simon (Norwell, Mass./Philadelphia Revolution) and senior forward Trevor Cope (Swartz Creek, Mich./Atlanta Jr. Knights). Tight defense was the story of the opening 20 minutes with both teams combining for just 18 shots. However, the Wildcats evened the score almost 10 minutes later. Josh Obregon struck for JWU and the teams entered the first intermission even at 1-1.
Just two minutes into the second period, Blake gave the Bears the lead back with an unassisted tally. However, the Wildcats answered at the 4:27 mark with a goal from Connor Bates. After the offensive flurry to start the middle stanza, again the defenses took control, allowing just 16 total shots. Again the teams found themselves even at the break.
Scoring opportunities were even scarcer in the third period. Potsdam junior goaltender Jon Hall (Dexter, N.Y./Stouffville Spirit) and JWU goalie Joey Balmer faced 17 shots in the final 20 minutes. Both netminders frustrated the offenses until late in the contest. With 2:40 to go, a Bear was called for interference and the Wildcats capitalized. At 1:18, Stefan Brucato buried the decisive tally. Potsdam pulled Hall after the goal, but took three more penalties in the final minute and was unable to get the equalizer.
Hall finished with 20 saves, while Balmer stopped 26 shots to earn the victory.
The Bears outshot JWU 28-23 and went 1-for-4 on the man advantage. The Wildcats were 1-for-5 on the power play.
Potsdam heads to Saratoga Springs tomorrow afternoon to face Skidmore College at 4 p.m.