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CANTON, N.Y. — It was a playoff atmosphere in Appleton Arena on Friday night between St. Lawrence and Dartmouth, who were battling for a crucial two league points in a tight race for the final first-round bye in the ECAC tournament.
In the end, it was the home team that prevailed, the Saints picking up a 5-2 win.
The first period was full of scoring as the teams combined for five goals, but despite the end result on the scoreboard, the first 11 minutes of the game told a different story.
Dartmouth picked up the first two, from Corey Kalk, but three straight goals from threee different players put the Saints up 3-2 after period one.
Kalk’s first goal came quick, just 1:18 into the period, as he beat Kyle Hayton from out high with a seeing-eye wrist shot.
Kalk scored again exactly nine minutes into the contest, taking the puck through the slot from left to right and forcing Hayton to move. With Hayton down, Kalk had virtually an open net to shoot at and he didn’t miss.
The Saints came marching right back with three goals in a 6:30 stretch to end the first. The first goal came just 21 seconds after Kalk’s second tally. Mike Marnell picked up a loose puck at the side of the net and fired it past James Kruger.
Then 5:10 later, Drew Smolcynski beat Kruger with a wrist shot from above the left faceoff circle.
“It was good that Benny [Masella] had the vision to get me the puck and I just looked up and ripped it,” said Smolcynski. “I guess I got kind of lucky.”
SLU then took the lead 1:35 later when Ryan Lough tapped home a rebound off a shot that hit a Dartmouth defender in front.
From a scoring standpoint, the second period was comparatively slow, but the pace was anything but lethargic.
The teams fired a combined 20 shots on net, same as in the opening frame, but the goalies, Kruger in particular, stole the show. With no scoring, the teams headed into the intermission with the score still holding at 3-2 in favor of the Saints.
The Saints picked up two more goals in the third. Joe Sullivan was camped out in the slot and a backhand pass from Tommy Thompson found him wide open for a 4-2 lead just 1:45 into the period.
A give-and-go play down the left wing between Smolcynski and Jacob Pritchard resulted in Smolcynski scoring his second of the game to make it 5-2.
“I thought our kids played hard, but they’re a good team,” said Gaudet. “[Kruger] gave us a real chance to win. In the second period, he made a few outstanding saves. We’ll see, maybe we’ll see them again.”
“That was obviously a playoff-style game,” said SLU coach Greg Carvel. “I’m really proud of the way we played. We played the way we needed to [and] we didn’t let Dartmouth get going much at all.”
“We knew this was a big game, and it wasn’t the start that we wanted, going down 2-0,” added Lough. “We stuck with it and kept playing and the scoreboard reflects that.”
With the win, combined with a Rensselaer loss, the Saints clinched a first-round bye and will play Harvard Saturday with a chance at a third-place finish.