WESTFIELD, Mass. – Westfield State junior Francois-Xavier Girard (St. Lazare, Quebec) had two goals, including the game-winner with 36 seconds remaining, to lead Westfield State over Plymouth State on Military and First Responders Night Tuesday at Amelia Park.
The go-ahead goal all started with a strong rush from junior forward Robert Neuwirth (Zlin, Czech Republic) all the way up the ice, where he slid a pass across the crease to a streaking Girard who would slam home the game-winner.
With the win, Westfield State gains their 14th win, tying the record for most wins since the program was reinstated in 2008. The victory also solidifies Westfield State with the second seed in the MASCAC tournament for the first time ever, gaining a home playoff game and a first-round bye in the process.
The Owls held the lone tally in the first as a result of a beautiful wrist-shot from Girard that snuck just under the crossbar to give Westfield State the 1-0 lead.
Midway through the second period, the action spiked as the two teams exploded for four goals in a matter of six minutes. The Panthers evened the game at one when Brett Backman (Cos Cob, Conn.) sent a stealth-like pass from behind the net to find a wide open JR Barone (West Chester, Penn.) who would fire it home.
Barone would add another just under two minutes later to put Plymouth State up 2-1, but Daniel Backstrom (Helsinki, Finland) would pot his seventh of the season moments after that to tie the game once again.
The Panthers would cap off their three-goal goal period only 39 seconds after Backstrom's tally on a goal from senior Matt Volonnino (Hackettstown, N.J.) to put Plymouth State up 3-2 after two periods.
After a back-and-fourth third, Josh Boulos (Burlington, Mass.) would send a slap shot from the top of the slot into the back of the net to tie the game with 3:09 left in the game, keeping the Owls two-seed hopes alive.
After the Boulos goal, Girard would net the game-winner and Clancy would add an empty-netter to secure the Owl victory.
Plymouth State outshout the Owls 46-37 in the contest. Goaltender Thierry Messervier made 43 saves for Westfield, while Evan Morelli (Reading, Mass.) gathered 32 for the Panthers.
The Panthers will take the regular season MASCAC crown despite the loss. The tournament schedule will be announced by the conference sometime in the next couple of days. Once announced, all future updates will be available on www.westfieldstateowls.com.
Before the game, Westfield State honored members of the U.S. Military and the First Responders that keep our country and our loved ones safe. Westfield Mayor Brian Sullivan performed the ceremonial puck drop to Plymouth State's Drake Longaker (San Jose, Calif.) and Westfield State's Aaron Clancy (Quincy, Mass.), and was joined on the carpet by Westfield Fire Chief Patrick Elgoff, Westfield State Police Chief Tony Casciano, Staff Sergeant Shane Coakley, and U.S. Military Veteran Nathan Towse. From all of us at Westfield State Athletics, thank you for your service!