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SLU sweeps Brown to advance to ECAC quarterfinals

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By CHRIS FITZGERALD

CANTON — After a trio of freshmen led the way offensively for St. Lawrence University on Saturday night, senior goalie Matt Weninger closed the door on Brown to complete a first-round playoff sweep.

Three freshmen scored a goal each, including rookie forward Woody Hudson’s game-winner five minutes, 52 seconds into the third period, and the Saints went on to hold off the Bears 3-2 to win an ECAC Hockey playoff series at Appleton Arena.

Weninger made 23 saves, including several crucial stops in the final minutes, to turn back Brown.

“It was hectic, that’s for sure,” Weninger said of the game’s finish. “Sometimes you get lucky, but we also played well.”

Eric Sweetman, who scored the deciding goal in double overtime in a 3-2 victory over the Bears on Friday, and fellow first-year defenseman Gavin Bayreuther also scored for the Saints.

“We’ve certainly worked hard and that has gotten us this far,” Hudson said. “I’m happy we were able to earn a sweep.”

By completing their two-game series against ninth-seeded Brown, eighth-seeded St. Lawrence (15-17-4) moved on to the conference quarterfinal round for the second consecutive season against an opponent yet to be determined.

“It’s cool,” Bayreuther said. “We’ve kind of had our bumps and bruises throughout the year, so to be able to go to the next round of the playoffs is a really good experience for us.”

After Garnet Hathaway drew the Bears (11-17-3) even at 1-1 with his rebound goal at 4:10 into the third period, Bayreuther followed with the go-ahead goal only 26 seconds later as he quickly lifted a feed from Kyle Essery past freshman goalie Tyler Steel (25 saves).

Hudson followed with the deciding goal, providing the Saints with a 3-1 advantage as he stripped the puck away from a defender and slipped a backhander through Steel’s leg pads at the top of the goal mouth at 5:52.

“I was in the corner with Alex Hagen and we were both forechecking the (defense) hard,” Hudson said. “I was able to pull the puck out of a defender’s skate and found a way to the net.”

“That was a huge goal and the game winner,” St. Lawrence coach Greg Carvel said of Hudson’s tally. “And Alex Dahl set up Sweetman on the first goal and Gavin scored ... so it’s a great sign to see this time of the year — our young players have come a long way.”

But the Bears pulled within a goal again at 3-2, this time on Ryan Jacobson’s tally from the left side of the net with 9:50 remaining in regulation.

“We came up here with high hopes to try and get it done,” Brown coach Brendan Whittet said. “And it wasn’t from a lack of effort; they’re a good hockey team, they do a lot of things right and they’re very offensively gifted.”

Weninger ensured Brown wouldn’t force overtime for the second consecutive night as he stopped Nick Lappin’s rebound bid with 3 1/2 minutes remaining and turned aside Massimo Lamacchia’s shot with 42.1 seconds left.

Then in the closing moments, Weninger snagged Jake Goldberg’s drive from the just inside the blue line with 1.4 seconds remaining.

“I’d be lying if I said I knew where that last puck was going,” Weninger said. “It just dropped right into my glove, I guess. ... It went through about six people and it was kind of a seeing-eye shot that my glove just got in the way of.”

Carvel also credited his team’s defensive effort as St. Lawrence allowed only two goals in each of the two games against the Bears.

“I think we were a fragile team defensively for a good stretch of the season,” said Carvel, whose team has won a season-high three straight times at home. “I think we’re finding confidence in our ability to limit shots and we haven’t given up a lot of shots.”

Earlier, Sweetman broke a scoreless tie with a power-play goal as he collected in a quick pass from Alex Dahl and fired a drive past Steel from the right faceoff circle 5:13 into the second period.

The goal came on the lone power play of the night for St. Lawrence, which also killed off Brown’s two man advantages.

“Our power play continues to score on a regular basis and our penalty kill is getting stronger,” Carvel said.

The Saints will play on the road in the quarterfinal round for the second straight season as last year they were swept in two games by eventual national champion Yale.

St. Lawrence could travel to either top-seeded Union, Quinnipiac or Colgate, depending on the outcome of a pair of third-and-deciding playoff games today, with Princeton playing at Clarkson and RPI hosting Dartmouth.

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