Full-team Effort Lifts Falcons in Tourney
By Nick Mallard
What a weekend for the Falcons.
The Fitchburg State ice hockey team had little trouble in defending its Steve Hoar Memorial Tournament title this season, cruising to wins over Becker and Franklin Pierce on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, and outscoring the opposition 14-3 in the two contests.
The wins put the Falcons at 4-3-2 overall and 3-1-1 in the last five games. And FSU has gotten goals from all over the roster, something that surely will bring a smile to head coach Dean Fuller’s face.
Sure, senior Nick DiNicola (two goals, four assists in the tournament) and sophomore Sascha Figi (two goals, two assists in the same span) put up their usual numbers as the Falcons once again claimed the Steve Hoar Memorial hardware, but they weren’t alone.
In the opener against host Becker, Kyle Hillick potted a pair of markers in a 5-2 win. And on Sunday, Kevin Perry found the net three times and Michael Fretz scored twice as the Falcons routed Franklin Pierce, 9-1, in the title game.
All told, 19 FSU players notched at least a point in the tournament, including netminder Brian McGrath, who assisted on Joshua Soboyu’s empty net tally in the opener.
After an up-and-down start to the season, McGrath looks like he’s rounding back into the form that made him a must-start freshman last season. Down the stretch during Fitchburg State’s run to the MASCAC tournament crown, McGrath went on a run akin to that of Tim Thomas in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Nothing could rattle him. Very little got past him.
But to start his sophomore campaign, McGrath’s numbers weren’t nearly as solid as they had been in his inaugural collegiate season -- which, admittedly, were lofty standards to meet for an entire season.
In his last six starts, though, McGrath has gone 3-1-2 and not given up more than two goals in any contest. He set a season high in saves (52, one short of his career high) in a 2-all draw with Plymouth State on Nov. 8 and took Steve Hoar MVP honors by stopping 59 of the 62 shots he faced over the weekend.
He’s played in all but one of FSU’s games this season, with freshman Christopher Mattone between the pipes for Fitchburg State’s 3-2 loss ot Assumption on Nov. 3.
The Falcons close out the first half of their season with a pair of MASCAC tilts this week. Fitchburg State hosts Westfield State Thursday night and heads to Worcester State on Saturday evening for the final game before the semester break.
Fitchburg State is 1-1-2 in conference play, good for fourth in the MASCAC standings. Both Westfield (2-1) and Worcester (3-1) sit ahead of FSU in conference play.
Follow Nick Mallard on Twitter @n_mallard.