If you looked at Jesper Mattila on the ice during men's hockey's 4-1 win over Colorado College you would think that he has been doing this for years. But if you see him trying to find his way around the post-game alma mater salute at center ice, you would be reassured of his freshman status.
Mattila scored his first collegiate goal for the Eagles off a rocket from the top of the zone, his shot soared over the right shoulder of starting goalie Alex Leclerc. The Finnish phenom was a dominant presence in his first game at Kelley Rink. The defenseman played a solid two-way game on Friday night, producing on the score sheet and helping hold off a desperate Colorado College team. His inexperience is overshadowed by his calm demeanor and intelligence on the ice.
As discovered tonight, unfortunately, he will have to work without brother Julius who is out 6-8 weeks with an injury, a ballpark range offered by Coach York.
Colin White was a large asset offensively as well, scoring two of the team's four goals. His first net was a solid rebound from Ryan Fitzgerald's shot off the boards, that ricocheted behind the net to the opposite side where White waited patiently to slip the puck in behind an unsuspecting Leclerc. His second score of the night was the nail in the coffin that gave the Eagles the 4-1 lead. After a turnover in the Eagles zone, Scott Savage sent the puck into the Tigers' zone, White took it from the top to beat out three defenders before crossing the goal and sinking the shot.
Casey Fitzgerald would also get a point for the Eagles, ripping a one-timer from the top of the zone to nab the game-winning goal. The entire night, Fitzgerald was a presence on the ice from moving the puck and generating plays offensively to coming up with big stops and blocks to help hold the Tigers to one.
With a majority of the action occurring in the first two-thirds of the game, by the end of the second period, the teams totaled 13 penalties and five goals overall. While the score would remain unchanged, the number of penalties grew.
The play would seem almost barbaric by looking at all the penalties assessed. In total, there were 42 penalty minutes (21 penalties total) assessed throughout the entire game. York would credit the large amount of penalties given to the new NHL rules that the NCAA has adapted, making for stricter calls on things such as hooking, tripping, and high-sticking violations.
Overall, the win wasn't the prettiest, but it got the job done. Freshman goalie Ryan Edquist made 13 solid saves, crucial to keeping the Eagles in the game and preserving their lead. Defensively, Mike Kim has really stepped up since joining the team in the middle of last season. His intensity and play have both elevated to give the Eagles some leadership Jon defense.
Chris Brown and JD Dudek have also both stepped up into more prominent roles; given the departures, they have been granted a great opportunity to fill in the holes left behind. Dudek went between sitting out and playing on the fourth line in his freshman season, but Friday night he was promoted to the first line alongside White and Fitzgerald. He has risen to the occasion and his play has drastically elevated since playing alongside two of the team's stars.
Brown has also risen among the pack to join Austin Cangelosi and freshman David Cotton on the second line. He has become a calmer, more stoic presence on the ice. He has helped generate opportunities and posses the puck well for the Eagles. One moment in particular from the win stood out as Brown knocked a sailing puck out of the air at center ice and sent it into the zone for Cangelosi, who crashed hard to the net. The beautiful effort was broken up by a hooking call on the Tigers, who earned a penalty on the play.
Overall, the team still has a long was to go with discipline and making more crisp and organized plays on the ice, but the Eagles are seeing results. They will take on Holy Cross Saturday night to try and keep their two-game streak going, and then will return home next Friday to take on Providence College at 6pm.
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