Image by Jacob Downey


Marc Tavernese


Staff Writer


March 2, MASCAC Men’s Hockey Tournament championship was for all the glory with the winning Panthers crowned as conference champions. The Panthers could already envision another champion banner in Hanaway Rink, and the only people left in their path were the #2 seed Fitchburg State Falcons.

The Falcons had shown the MASCAC they were one of the top dogs in the conference, finishing the regular season with a 15-10-2 record and defeating UMass Dartmouth in the semifinals. They then faced the only team better than them: our own Plymouth State Panthers. The Panthers finished the season with an incredible 23-2-2 record, and were nationally ranked within the top 10 going into the conference championship. This championship wouldn’t just be their fifth in a row, but would also open the doors for the NCAA Division III Hockey Championship.

The first period started with great back-and-forth action. The Falcons and Panthers were almost equal in strength on their offensive pushes, with each line taking the puck past the neutral zone and launching some early near-miss shots on goal. Several missed opportunities for both teams as well as critical turnovers on bad passes allowed each team to get even closer to the creases on shots. 

The Falcons got their first chance to bite on a power play six minutes into the first period. The Falcons kept the puck in the Panthers defensive zone, but the Panthers stepped up in their power-play kill strategy and allowed zero shots on goal for the Falcons. It was an equal fight from both teams until the Panthers had their first major opportunity to score on a power play with 3:37 left in the first period. The Panthers pressured the Falcons defense immediately, and #9 Ethan Stuckless passed to an open #20 Payton Schaly at middle ice for a slapshot goal on the Falcons freshman goalie #30 Frederick Soderberg just 15 seconds into the power play.

The first period ended quietly, but 3 ½ minutes into the second period the Panthers jumped onto the Falcons when #6 Conner Tait captured a momentum-stabilizing goal setup by a series of quick passes. The period continued and the Panthers showed a strong presence offensively as they applied more pressure. Playing catch-up began to take a toll on the Falcons’ stamina, who needed to focus on playing strong defense knowing the weapons the Panthers have. 

With just under 13 minutes left in the second, the Falcons began to take a more physical approach to dealing with the Panthers, eventually leading to a penalty and another Panther power play. The Panthers, with plenty of opportunities at net, couldn’t extend their lead with the Falcons showing a strong and critical power-play kill. 

With another Panther power play 12 minutes into the period, the Falcons stepped up once again and left the Panthers scoreless on the opportunity. But at 5:34 left #22 Donte DiPonio shot into a crowded mess at the Falcons crease, setting up #19 Jeromey Rancourt with an opening to extend the Panthers strong showing to 3-0. The Falcons showed their anger with a massive hit into the board on #3 Colin Tracy, which lead to a scoreless power play. The Panthers got the message. If the Falcons were going to take shots like this, the only fair way to deal with it was to be just as physical back to them. The period ended with a scoreless Falcon power play.

The third period started slowly, but finally climaxed after 10 minutes of frustration as Panthers and Falcons began going at it against the boards near center ice. The game turned into 4 on 4 hockey and the hits continued from the Falcons, with tempers continuing to flow over into near brawls. This gave the Falcons another shot at cutting the lead, but they couldn’t break through the Panthers’ barrier. Though the rest of the period wasn’t peaceful, the Panthers rode off into the night, becoming what play-by-play commentator Evan Alfano worded perfectly: “The Kings of the MASCAC!”The Panthers, now conference champions, have a chance at something on a national scale. If they bring it home, this will be one of the biggest seasons in PSU history. Tune in on March 9, at Hanaway Rink for the Panthers first matchup in the NCAA Division III tournament against the Cortland Red Dragons all the way from New York on the LEC Network.