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Hockey Clinches Playoff Spot with Last Minute Goal

Indranath Neogy--The Tech
John Rae '99 carries the puck toward the Central Connecticut State University goal in a home match on Sturday afternoon. MIT scored with 18 seconds remaining to tie the game 2-2.

By Hana Ohkawa
staff reporter

The men's hockey team clinched a playoff berth with a 22 tie against the league leader, Central Connecticut State University, on Saturday at Johnson Athletics Center.

Going into the game against Central Connecticut State University, the Engineers were in third place in the Northeast Collegiate Hockey Association. The top three teams make the playoffs, which will be held Feb. 28 and March 1 at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

In order to guarantee a third place finish, the team needed a win or tie either against Central Connecticut or Wheaton College next Saturday.

Central Connecticut has a strong, fast team and has been at the top of the league standings all season. Last season, Central Connecticut ended the MIT's 13-game undefeated streak. The Blue Devils had beaten the Engineers in their last three meetings.

The Engineers scored early in the first period, with Captain Tetsu Inada '97 putting in his own rebound. Central Connecticut came back strong, using their speed to penetrate deep into the zone. The MIT defensemen were often caught flat footed and had to resort to committing penalties to prevent Central Connecticut goals.

On one such occasion, Rocky Bryant '00 was sent to the penalty box for interference. The Blue Devils quickly converted on the power play to tie the score at one.

Halfway into the period, Central Connecticut forward Mike Morgan pushed Engineer defenseman Will Noon '00 headfirst into the boards. Morgan was given a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct. After a tense few minutes, Noon was able to skate off the ice unassisted and later resumed play.

MIT failed to take advantage of the major penalty. The Engineers could not put together a scoring drive or even keep the puck in the offensive zone. Central Connecticut scored a short-handed goal two minutes into the penalty to put them ahead 21.

The Engineers' composure disintegrated at that point, and a series of penalties resulted in Donaldson, Schlueter, and Bryant sharing the penalty box.

The Engineers were ultimately able to rally and ward off the Blue Devil power play.

After a shaky first period, the MIT defense turned around and completely stonewalled the Blue Devils for the remaining two periods. With good coverage and heads-up play, the defense prevented fast breaks, the heart of the Blue Devil offense.

Goalie John Zehren '99 as the last line of defense, was impenetrable for the last two periods. The Engineers put together many scoring opportunities but couldn't beat Central's goalie.

The score remained 21 through the entire second period. As the third period drew to a close, the MIT players became more aggressive, needing a goal for the tie and for the playoff berth.

With just a minute left, Head Coach Tom Keller pulled Zehren from the net, giving MIT a six-on-five advantage. Central Connecticut was able to clear the zone, but MIT defenseman Goodman managed to protect the empty net.

With just 18 seconds remaining in the game, Central again tried to clear, but Bryant stopped it at the blue line and released a quick slap shot. The Blue Devil goalie was caught by surprise and hardly moved as the puck found the net, making the final score, 22.

MIT trounces Franklin Pierce

The tie comes after a 104 thrashing of Franklin Pierce College on Wednesday night.

Franklin Pierce started off the scoring midway through the first period with a goal by forward Tim Lacroix. The Engineers replied quickly with two goals in quick succession. First, in a crowd in front of the net, Jim Goodman G stuffed in a pass from Buddy Webb '97. Then, less than a minute later, Captain Steve Schlueter '97 took a slap shot from the dot and tucked the puck just inside the right post.

Near the end of the first period, John Rae '97 got the first of his three goals for the night, with an off-speed shot to the lower left.

A strong first period gave the Engineers a 31 lead, but the MIT scoring machine stuttered in the second period. Both teams had few opportunities, but finally, with Bryant in the box for interference, Franklin Pierce scored, with just 14 seconds left on the power play.

A goal by Inada gave MIT some breathing room, and brought the score to 42 to end the period.

Engineer forward Greg Donaldson '00 extended the lead to 52 in the opening minutes of the third period

Franklin Pierce tried to start a comeback as they converted a power play to cut their deficit to 53. But 16 seconds later, the MIT scoring machine kicked into overdrive.

With 17:19 on the clock, Bryant passed the puck up to Rae who was alone just past the blue line. Rae shot from directly in front and beat Ray Nault, the Franklin Pierce goalie. Exactly nine seconds later, Rae scored again. Franklin Pierce's coach pulled the shaken goalie in favor of alternate John Bryde.

Bryde had no better luck against the Engineers' offensive steamroller, giving up three goals, and making only two saves. Two of these MIT goals were scored by Donaldson, both with assists by Rae and Schlueter. The third was scored in the closing minutes of the game by Troy Thorson '98, bringing the score to 104.