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SLU hockey program earns 1,000th triumph

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CANTON — With a major milestone once again within reach, this time the St. Lawrence University hockey team stood fast.

Juniors Jeremy Wick and Kyle Essery each scored in the third period and goalie Matt Weninger made 25 saves as the Saints turned back Rochester Institute of Technology, 4-3, on Saturday night at Appleton Arena to record the program’s 1,000th victory.

St. Lawrence (8-9-2) finally earned a much-needed win by halting a five-game losing skid.

“It was a long time coming,” Weninger said. “We had five chances at it and sometimes that’s the way it goes — you get a little pressure put on you and you come right back. This was almost not like a celebration — it’s more like a weight off our shoulders.”

The St. Lawrence program, which dates back to 1925 when scores of games were first officially recorded, is just the 16th team among the 59 Division I schools and the sixth in ECAC Hockey to reach 1,000 wins.

“This is a big win and it’s a special milestone,” St. Lawrence coach Greg Carvel said. “It’s great to be a part of it, and it speaks to the tradition and history of the program.”

With the Saints carrying a lead into the third period, this game appeared headed in the same direction of St. Lawrence’s 4-3 loss to RIT on Friday as again the Tigers (5-9-4) rallied to take the lead on two goals in the first 2 minutes from Mike Colavecchia.

However, the Saints didn’t flinch, as just 33 seconds later, Wick took a pass from Kyle Flanagan and backhanded a shot past goalie Josh Watson at 2:57 of the final period to draw St. Lawrence even at 3-3.

“There were a lot of ups and downs in the third period,” Wick, a right wing, said. “But we stayed with it and were able to come back and score some big goals.”

“They scored those quick two goals on us, but we didn’t sulk,” Essery said. “We stayed with it and were able to respond as a team.”

Essery responded with the game-winning goal at 6:05. After Tommy Thompson delivered a crushing check in the left corner, Thompson carried the puck toward the net and centered the puck to Essery, who lifted the puck over Watson’s glove.

“I just jumped on the ice and I heard a big crash and Tommy worked so hard to get the puck,” said Essery, a centerman who scored three goals in the weekend set. “Then he made that great pass to me ... that was just some great hard work by him.”

“His teammates gave him the game puck and he deserved it,” Carvel said of Thompson. “That was a huge goal for us and he played like that all night. We’ve talked about that about how we respond to situations like the one we faced, but we got back up and did what we had to do.”

Weninger bounced back by shutting down the Tigers the rest of the way in the third period, including blocking Ben Lynch’s backhander with 2:10 left.

“I think Matt quietly played well all weekend,” Carvel said of Weninger, who denied Nolan Descoteaux’s breakaway bid with six minutes left in the second.

The Saints had been stuck on 999 wins since a 4-2 victory at Colgate on Nov. 30.

“That’s what we needed,” Carvel said of the victory. “Sometimes we’re a fragile team and to win this way will give us confidence going back into league play.”

Like on Friday, St. Lawrence scored the first two goals of the game against RIT as Patrick Doherty and Gunnar Hughes each tallied a goal within a stretch of 5 1/2 minutes.

“This game was somewhat similar to last night,” RIT coach Wayne Wilson said. “But give credit to St. Lawrence, they showed a lot of resiliency tonight.”

The Saints cashed in on their first power play on a sharp sequence as Greg Carey sent a cross-ice feed to George Hughes and Doherty converted on Hughes’ cross-crease feed at 8:08, scoring into the right side of the net seven minutes into the game.

Gunnar Hughes then scored unassisted as he picked the pocket of a defender, walked in alone and snapped the puck through Watson’s leg pads at 12:34. The Tigers drew within 2-1 as Brad McGowan at 14:05.

Watson made 35 saves for the Tigers, who lost for the first time in four games.

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