Blue Hens

ACHA D2: Melee Mars Delaware/Keene State

(Tisa Della-Volpe)

Newark, Del. — In Saturday night’s (Nov. 3) meeting between the University of Delaware Division 2 men’s hockey team and Keene State (N.H.), 77 minutes of penalties were meted out . . .

. . . in the last five minutes alone.

A late-game melee which stemmed from Cullen Gustafson’s blatant charging of Delaware goalie Stephen Odgers was an unsavoury conclusion to an otherwise fast and physical — yet largely clean — contest at Fred Rust Arena.

Oh, and by the way, the Blue Hens (12-2-0) defeated the Owls (4-3-0), 6-2.

Odgers, perfect in net aside from a pair of Owls goals scored late in the third period to cut a 4-0 Blue Hens lead in half, was the target of Gustafson’s frustration with three minutes left in the game, as the Keene State centre strode at him from the Delaware blue line before the fracas unfolded — just 17 seconds after a scuffle in front of the Keene State bench that saw Brian Tobin and Dan Demas receive matching ten-minute misconducts. Gustafson, who was assessed a charging major and a game misconduct for his actions on Odgers, was issued a second game misconduct for his role in a post-charge fight with Delaware defenceman Mike Hicken that resulted in all ten skaters piled up in the middle of the Blue Hens zone and led to a lengthy delay in action.

Owls coach Bobby Rodrigue was similarly incensed, shouting at officials and engaging the Delaware bench in heated dialogue while failing to take control of his players.

This all developed after the Blue Hens outworked an aggressive Keene State forecheck, worked the puck more deliberately out of the defensive zone, and broke open the floodgates during a power play late in the first period, when Jeremy DeWit punched the puck past Owls goalie Carlin Testa with six seconds remaining in the frame in a goal-mouth scrum.

Three minutes and 10 seconds into the middle frame, Hens blueliner Tyler Swift connected with Mike Leather on a stretch pass through the neutral zone, setting up a breakaway goal to lift the Hens to a 2-0 lead before captain Alec Rankin added another power-play goal at 18:04 with a rebound put-back after Testa was sprawled across the crease to make an initial save.

Down 4-0 after Hicken crashed the Owls’ net to put back a Ryan Lowe rebound with 5:43 to go in the game, Keene State started to find a bit of momentum, as Andrew Lusignan and Joe Nutting reeled off rapid-fire goals for the Owls — the latter coming from the top of the left circle during a Mike Nauman tripping minor at 15:25. Nine seconds later, and just before tempers began to flare, Ryan Morse potted his 15th goal of the season to restore the Hens’ advantage to three.

While a Larry Hooper tripping minor negated a three-minute Delaware power play from the Gustafson incident, Delaware fourth-line centre Kyle Sapia put a bow on the game with a net-front backhand goal off a two-on-one rush with 39 seconds remaining.

In all, Odgers stopped 18 of 20 shots to improve to 4-1-0, while Owls goalies Testa (3-2-0) and Chance Kirby combined for 24 saves on 30 total shots. The Hens’ power play accounted for two goals on four opportunities, compared to a 1-for-7 success rate for Keene State.

Delaware hosts the North Carolina State IcePack on Friday (Nov. 9). Game time at Fred Rust Arena is slated for 9:30 p.m. EST.

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