UB men’s ice hockey advances to semifinals
Bulls defeat the reigning champs St. John Fisher
With a trip to Rochester on the line, it wasn’t surprising that Saturday night’s game between the Buffalo men’s ice hockey team and St. John Fisher got a little testy.
From fans heckling the St. John Fisher goaltender with chants of his name and making fun of his mother’s cooking, to even a fight between the two teams sprawling out on the ice, both teams battled in effort to move on to the National Collegiate Hockey Association Semifinals.
But in the end it was Buffalo’s speed and puck control that was the reason for the team advancing to the NCHA Semifinals in Rochester, New York.
On Saturday, the Bulls (11-4, 5-1 NCHA) defeated St. John Fisher (10-9, 2-3 NCHA) 3-1 at the Northtown Center in a matchup of NCHA West rivals. St. John Fisher was the defending NCHA national champions.
UB’s Division-I men’s ice hockey team, which plays in the Northeast Collegiate Hockey League, lost to Niagara in the NECHL Semifinals in Syracuse last night. Both teams are a part of the same Student Association club.
“It’s always a close game with them,” said coach Jim Doersam. “They’re our rivals. We’ve been battling with them. Players on both teams know each other. We know each other really well.”
Sophomore left winger Andrew Murchison scored twice, including the game-winner in the second period.
After the Bulls and the Cardinals traded goals in the second period for a 1-1 game, Murchison got the eventual game-winning goals due to quick passing. Sophomore defenseman Bryan Kross made a pass to graduate center and captain Zach LaMacchia, who in turn moved the puck to Murchison for the goal.
In the third period, the Bulls notched another goal off the stick of Murchison to officially seal Buffalo’s trip to the next round. It was clear that Buffalo’s combination of speed and strategy proving too much for the Cardinals toward the end of the game.
As the clock wound down, Buffalo began to celebrate the victory.
From the outset, Buffalo’s speed seemed to be the difference between the two teams. The Bulls raced up and down the ice, got their hands on almost every loose puck and used it on defense too by making sure the puck constantly moved when the Cardinals were on offense.
Speed was also the determining factor in the Bulls’ first goal by sophomore right wing Brad Bailey. Graduate center Zach LaMacchia made a quick pass up the ice to Bailey, who finished the goal to give the Bulls a 1-0 lead.
Doersam said the goal for the Bulls coming into the match was to use “puck movement” and to “spread out the rink” with their play.
Doersam credits the venue the team practiced in during the final week of training before the playoffs began.
“For the last two weeks we practiced on the Olympic rink. It’s quite a bit larger than the other one we’re used to playing on,” Doersam said. “This extra space there was additional room to spread out players. Spacing was pivotal, as we looked for holes in the defense of the opposition.”
Junior goalie David Nowak finished with one goal allowed and 23 saves on 24 total shots in the victory. After the game, Nowak didn’t mince words on how important the victory was for the Bulls.
“Big. Huge. Exciting,” Nowak said. “It felt pretty good. The crowd was awesome. [St. John Fisher] were really physical, but we were faster than them.”
With the victory, the Bulls travel to Rochester, New York for the conference semifinals of the NCHA playoffs on March 18. They will face a yet-to-be unannounced opponent.
Landin Murphy is a sports contributing writer and can be reached at email@example.com.