Tugnutt's Overtime Game Winner Gives Pioneers 2-1 Win Over Air Force

Photo courtsey of Quinnipiac Athletics
Photo courtsey of Quinnipiac Athletics

HAMDEN, Conn.— Freshman Matt Tugnutt buried home the rebound goal at 2:54 in overtime to give the Sacred Heart University men's ice hockey team the 2-1 win over Air Force on Tuesday afternoon. 

The Pioneers (10-16-4, 8-12-4 AHA) earned their third straight win and the season series edge over the Falcons (15-12-4, 10-10-3 AHA) at TD Bank Sports Center. 

It was SHU's freshmen at the top of the scoresheet as Tugnutt along with classmate Marc Johnstone netted the two goals. Johnstone recorded his third straight power play goal in the first period for SHU.

Sophomores Vito Bavaro & Zach Tsekos recorded the assists on the Pioneers first goal. Freshman Jordan Kaplan and junior Stephen Hladin recorded the game winning assists in overtime. Junior Brett Magnus stopped 23 of 24 shots in goal for the Pioneers.

Turning Point…

The Pioneers power play picked things back up early in the first period after scoring three power goals in the series finale at Niagara. Bavaro sent the pass from the point across the zone  to Tsekos that found a crashing Johnstone for his third straight power play goal.

SHU's forecheck continued to push the tempo in the second period forcing the puck through the Falcons zone. Magnus recorded nine saves in the middle frame to keep Air Force off the board. 

Air Force tied things up in the third on the stick of Marshall Bowery off of the Pioneers turnover at 5:59 in the third period. The Pioneers continued to attack in the third period outshooting the Falcons 9-to-7 in the period. Both teams were unable to find the back of the net forcing overtime.

Looking for points as the regular season winds down both team's looked to score early in overtime but both defenses made key blocked shots to hold the puck to the outside. The Pioneers went on the rush just over the halfway mark in overtime as the trio of Hladin, Kaplan and Tugnutt worked the puck deep. The junior sent the pass in front of the net for Kaplan as he was stick checked giving Tugnutt the wide open rebound to bury the game winner. 

How They Scored…

1:47 - 1st Period: SHU 1, Air Force 0: The Pioneers earned the man advantage early off the Air Force tripping penalty. SHU worked the puck along the blue line as Bavaro had the puck at the left point. He sent the pass across the zone to Tsekos who found Johnstone on the backside of the Falcons zone.

5:59 - 3rd Period: SHU 1, Air Force 1: A turnover by the Pioneers in their own zone forced by Trevor Stone knocked the puck out into the middle of the slot. Bowery was all alone to beat Magnus glove side to tie things up.

2:54 - Overtime: SHU 2, Air Force 1: The Pioneers went on the rush two minutes into overtime looking for the win. Kaplan sent in a shot from the left side that was blocked by the Falcons defense. Hladin was there for the rebound from behind the net. He dished the pass back into the zone that was sticked down by Billy Christopoulos as Kaplan looked to chip in the puck. The puck bounced out wide on the left side for the wide-open rebound as he buried the wrist shot into the open net.

Key Stats & Notes…

  • SHU has earned two straight wins over the Falcons for the season series win at 2-1-1.
  • The win is the Pioneers first in overtime since defeating the Falcons 3-2 in overtime at Cadet Ice Arena on February 25, 2017.
  • The Pioneers have won three straight games for the first time since the team put together four consecutive wins on February 21-March 7, 2015.
  • Johnstone earned his third straight power play goal, giving him 10 goals on the season.
  • Kaplan & Johnstone have registered a point in four straight games while Tugnutt & Tsekos have recorded points in three consecutive games.

Up Next…

The Pioneers will host RIT in the final home series of the regular season this weekend. The series opens Saturday night at Webster Bank Arena as SHU will honor seniors Kory Kennedy and Nathan Perry on Senior Night prior to the 7:05 p.m. start.