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Special teams carry Saints to sweep

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CANTON — The Saints’ special teams continues to be just that — special — and as a result they’re off to the program’s best start in more than decade.

Greg Carey scored a pair of power-play goals in the first period and the Saints penalty killing was perfect again as St. Lawrence outlasted Alabama-Huntsville, 3-1 on Saturday night before a crowd of 1,703 at Appleton Arena to sweep the two-game nonconference series.

“It was big.” Carey said of the Saints’ quick start. “Especially on Saturday nights, we’re really trying to come out as strong as we’ve played on Fridays. We wanted to come out just as hard and I think we did that – and getting those couple quick ones set the tone for the rest of the game.”

With their third consecutive victory, the nationally-ranked Saints (5-1) is off to its best start since 1999 when the team won its first eight games en route to winning the ECAC championship.

While St. Lawrence scored on its first two power plays, its penalty killing continues to excel, having killed off all seven Alabama-Huntsville power plays over the two games, including five on Saturday.

“I thought our power play was real good and we moved the puck real well,” Carvel said. “With the five guys we have out there, it’s pretty impressive what we’re doing. We had really good scoring chances and our penalty killing was great – we killed some critical penalties at critical times of the game.”

Carey struck first by scoring from the upper slot just 22 seconds into St. Lawrence’s first man advantage 5:52 into the game just moments after Chargers goalie John Griggs made a stop on Chris Martin’s bid in close.

“I would say that our scoring chances were about equal to theirs, but they were just more opportunistic,” Alabama-Huntsville coach Kurt Kleinendorst said. “I thought in the first period we played as well as we have, but we gave up those two power-play goals.”

Carey continued the momentum fired a one-timer from the extreme right side and past Griggs at 14:24 after taking a pass from Kyle Flanagan for a 2-0 advantage against the Chargers (0-7-1).

“It’s good, we watched some video from (Friday), they kind of had us a little confused with the way they were killing penalties,” Carey said of Alabama-Huntsville. “But moved the puck well and it paid off.”

“We kind of work on that kind of play after practice,” Carey said. “He kind of walks into the slot and gets the puck to me and I try and one-time the puck at that right angle – a lot of times the goalie isn’t expecting a shot from there.”

Tommy Thompson provided St. Lawrence with a 3-0 lead as he scored on a rebound at 13:20 of the second period.

The Saints held Alabama-Huntsville scoreless on all three of its power plays in the second period and one at a critical juncture in the last five minutes of the game after the Chargers drew within 3-1 on Jeff Vanderlught’s unassisted goal at 12:43 of the third.

“Our guys just worked their butts off for 60 minutes and I would say we deserve better,” Kleinendorst said. “But at the end of the day, that’s a very good hockey team over there and good hockey teams find ways to win.”

“We’re a hard-working team and I think we matched their work ethic,” Carvel said.

Saints goalie Matt Weninger, who had his scoreless streak of five-plus periods snapped by Alabama-Huntsville in the third period, finished with 23 saves to record the win.

“This was a big weekend for us,” Weninger said. “To only give up one goal in these two games after we did that at Maine is great. This is certainly good for our confidence.”

St. Lawrence will begin its ECAC schedule at Brown and Yale next Friday and Saturday.

“This is all great,” Carvel said, “but league play starts now. Wins like these and the ones we had on the road give us confidence and we’ll need that when we go on the road against two good teams in Brown and Yale.”

NOTES — Weninger’s scoreless streak of 128:14 dated back to the third period of the Saints’ 5-1 victory at Maine on Oct. 20. … … Carey and Flanagan now share the team lead in goals (6) as well as power-play goals (3). … Hughes has notched an assist in all six games. … Thompson’s goal was his first point of the season.

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