GORHAM, Maine – The Castleton men's hockey team picked up a crucial 3-1 win on the road on Friday night, defeating the University of Southern Maine in a New England Hockey Conference contest at USM Ice Arena.
The Spartans improve to 9-9-6, reaching the .500 mark for the first time since November 18. Castleton is also 8-5-4 in NEHC play, holding onto the fourth-place spot in the conference ahead of Skidmore heading into the final day of the regular season. Southern Maine falls to 9-13-2 overall and 5-11-1 in conference play with the loss.
Ryan O'Toole led the way with a pair of goals, while Ryan Smith added a goal of his own in the victory. Brock Labelle had two assists for Castleton, while Kurt Johnson and Troy Taylor added an assist apiece and Ryan Mulder made 19 saves in his eighth win of the season.
Alex Pantalone tallied the only score of the game for the Huskies, notching an unassisted goal in the third period. Paul Leger shouldered the loss for Southern Maine, making 20 saves on 23 shots faced.
The Spartans opened the game quickly, netting a pair of first-period goals just a minute and a half apart. Smith opened the scoring at 14:07, finishing off feeds from Johnson and Taylor to give the Spartans a 1-0 lead. O'Toole doubled that lead at the 15:38 mark, as he potted a goal on Labelle's first assist to make it 2-0 heading into the first intermission.
The second period was uneventful, as Castleton killed off a pair of penalties to keep the lead at 2-0 heading into the final 20 minutes. The Huskies broke into the goal column midway through the third, as Pantalone created an opportunity in transition with the two teams skating 4-on-4 before beating Mulder to halve the lead to 2-1. The Spartans answered back just minutes later, with O'Toole netting his second goal of the game from Labelle to give the Spartans a two-goal lead once more. Southern Maine pulled its goalie late in favor of an extra attacker, giving Castleton a chance for an empty-net goal in the waning minutes. Caleb Fizer had an opportunity late, but his shot through traffic missed wide of the cage with the horn sounding on a 3-1 final.
Castleton outshot Southern Maine 23-20, while both teams went 0-for-2 on the power play.
The Spartans wrap up the regular season tomorrow at Daniel Webster at 4 p.m.