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 programs 1,000th victory.
In the process, St. Lawrence (8-9-2) finally earned a much-needed win by halting its losing skid at five games.
It was a long time coming, Weninger said. We had five chances at it and sometimes thats the way it goes you get a little pressure put on you and you come right back. ... This was almost not like a celebration – its 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 teams in Division I and the sixth in ECAC Hockey to reach the 1,000-victory mark.
This is a big win and its a special milestone, St. Lawrence coach Greg Carvel said. Its 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. Lawrences 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 2½ minutes from Mike Colavecchia.
Yet on this night, the Saints didnt 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. Finally all the hard work in the last couple games paid off for us.
They scored those quick two goals on us, but we didnt 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 as 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 Watsons 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 two games against RIT. Then 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 ... Weve 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. We really needed this win so we can move forward as a team.
Weninger bounced back by shutting down the Tigers the rest of the way in the third period, including blocking Ben Lynchs backhander with 2:10 remaining.
I think Matt quietly played well all weekend, Carvel said of Weninger, who denied Nolan Descoteauxs breakaway bid with six minutes left in the second period.
The Saints who last won and had been stuck on 999 wins since a 4-2 win at Colgate on Nov. 30.
Thats what we needed, Carvel said of the victory. We found a way to win. ... Sometimes were 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. We had a subpar first period, better second period and got off to a great start in the third. 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 Watsons leg pads at 12:34.
The Tigers drew within 2-1 as Brad McGowan scored on a deflection in front at 14:05.
Watson made 35 saves for the Tigers, who lost for the first time in four games.
The Saints resume league play with home games against Yale and Brown at 7 p.m. next Friday and Saturday.