Utica and Neumann were the only ECAC West teams in action at holiday tournaments as 2011 finished and both faced top ranked teams. The Pioneers were at the Cardinal Classic hosted by Plattsburgh and drew a tough game against No. 3 Castleton, a team that has been climbing the polls all season long.
Utica came out flat after the holiday break, immediately getting into penalty trouble just 33 seconds into the game. Penalties at inopportune times have been a problem for Utica so far this season and it proved true again in this game as Castleton took a 4-0 lead in the first period including three power play goals.
Jordan Hobaica and Evan Chlanda tallied in the third period for Utica but it was too little too late to prevent Castleton from winning the game 5-2.
Utica rebounded in the consolation game against Babson on Saturday, overcoming a 2-1 deficit mid game to score five straight goals on the way to a 6-2 victory. Freshman Ridge Garbutt scored two goals and added an assist to lead Utica on the score sheet.
Neumann pushed past Hamline and Oswego to win the title in the Pathfinder Bank Oswego Classic tournament. The Pipers gave Neumann all it could handle in the opening game of the tournament, tying the Knights at 2-2 and 3-3. Cory Park scored with three minutes left in the contest to give the Knights the final lead of the game. Andrew Love added an empty net insurance goal with 38 seconds remaining, his second tally of the game, to secure the 5-3 victory for Neumann.
The Knights faced host Oswego, ranked No. 2 in the nation, in the championship game. Neumann went 2 for 8 on the power play, while holding Oswego scoreless on four man advantages. That proved to be a key difference in the game as Neumann rolled to a 3-0 victory to win the tournament. Steve Gervais, Cory Park, and Jordan Zalba scored for the Knights to get the second half of the season off to a rolling start.