A rookie trio came through again for St. Lawrence University's men's hockey team in game three of the Saints' ECAC playoff series at Princeton on Sunday afternoon and as a result the Saints will continue the 2011 season after a 2-1 win at Hobey Baker Rink.
Greg Carey and Kyle Essery, the goal scorers in Saturday's series tying 3-2 win, scored first period goals and rookie goaltender Matt Weninger made a collegiate career high 48 saves, 24 of them in a hectic third period to protect the lead as the Saints won a game three elimination game on the road for the first time in program history. St. Lawrence improves to 12-20-5 overall while Princeton's season ends at 17-13-2.
St. Lawrence has now won four straight ECAC post-season playoff series and will play at either top-seeded Union or second-seeded Yale in next weekend's best of three quarterfinals, depending upon the result of a Sunday night game three between Colgate and Rensselaer. If Colgate wins the series the Raiders will play Union and the Saints will be at Yale while if RPI wins, the Saints will get Union in the quarters.
"We played three very good hockey games against a good Princeton team," said Saint coach Joe Marsh. "The young guys really stepped up and we battled through today despite having a couple of guys out of the lineup with injuries. No matter what happens the rest of the way, the guys have accomplished something with the series win."
The Saints grabbed the early lead in the game as Kyle Flanagan broke in on Princeton goalie Sean Bonar, and while Flanagan's shot went over the crossbar, the rebound came off the end boards to defenseman Riley Austin, who was making his first series appearance in place of injured Matt Raley. Austin sent the puck out front to Nic Vangog, who sent a pass across to Carey and Carey flipped a shot over the shoulder of Bonar and under the crossbar at 5:27 for his third goal of the series and 21st of the season to give the Saints a 1-0 lead.
It went to 2-0 just under five minutes later when a thundering hit on a Princeton defenseman forced the puck free in the Princeton zone. The puck went right to Essery who gunned a quick shot along the ice which Bonar never had time to react to at 10:11. The goal, Essery's sixth of the season, turned out to be the game winning goal, his second in as many nights and the second of his career.
Weninger, who made 28 saves in recording his first collegiate playoff win on Saturday, made 16 in the first period and stopped eight of nine in the second, the lone Princeton goal coming on a power play shot from the top of the faceoff circle by Derrick Pallis which made it a 2-1 game at 12:57 of the second period.
Princeton came out strong to start the third period and outshot the Saints 24-4, but Weninger and the Saints weathered the storm. Weninger stopped all 24 Princeton shots in the period, including several with Bonar pulled for an extra attacker in the last 1:13 of regulation. The Saints blocked a total of 30 Princeton shots in the game as the Tigers had a total of 103 attempts to the Saints 46.
"We were kind of hanging on there at the end, but we made some big plays to help Wenny out and he came through with a bunch of big saves of his own," said Marsh. "That was definitely a clutch goaltending performance in a high pressure situation."