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Utica Pioneers defeat Saint Johns in the shootout

The Pioneers advance to the championship game of the Utica Thanksgiving Showcase after defeating Saint Johns 2-1 in the shootout.

The overall records of the Saint Johns Johnnies (2-5-0) and the #3 Utica Pioneers (6-0-2) entering their semi-final game of the Utica Thanksgiving Showcase could suggest it should be an easy game for the home team.

Not so fast.

The Johnnies, who made the trip to Utica for the tournament from Minnesota, came to play – namely goaltender Bailey Huber. The junior was outstanding between the pipes for Saint Johns under a barrage of Pioneers shots. Despite being outshot 18-6 in the first period, the Johnnies scored the only goal of the frame. With under three minutes before the intermission, Max Borst took a shot from the right side that got by Utica goaltender Ethan Roberts.

Elmira takes the first game of the Thanksgiving Classic

Utica’s Jakob Breault (#24) and a pair of Saint Johns defenders have a discussion in front of the Johnnie’s crease during their game on Friday night. Photo credit: Scott Kinville.

Utica outshot Saint John’s 17-5 in the second period, but neither goaltender yielded any goals. Saint Johns had a five-on-three power play opportunity for thirty seconds with two minutes left in the period but could not take advantage.

Utica’s Kimball Johnson (#20) checks Lewis Crosby (#11) of Saint Johns during Friday night’s game. Photo credit: Scott Kinville.

The teams traded power play opportunities early in the third period with neither capitalizing. On their 36th shot of the game, the Pioneers finally broke through when Alex Gullichsen corraled a loose puck in the slot and fired it in the Saint Johns net with 11:31 remaining in the period.

The feeling in the building was that the floodgates were going to open for the home team, but it was the visitors who began applying pressure in the last five minutes. Ethan Roberts made two huge saves to prevent the Johnnies from taking the lead. The Pioneers were then forced to kill a power play with 1:23 remaining when Kimball Johnson took a tripping penalty. They did and despite a huge disparity in shots, the game went to overtime.

Austin D’Orazio carries the puck into the offensive zone during Friday night’s game. Photo credit: Scott Kinville.

The Pioneers killed the remaining thirty-seven seconds of the penalty in the extra frame, and a thrilling overtime ensued. Each team had chances that required big saves from Roberts and Huber to which both goaltenders stood tall. The right to advance to the championship game of the Utica Thanksgiving Showcase would be decided in the shootout.

It took four rounds, but the Pioneers won by a goal by Alex Gullichsen and advanced to the championship game against Elmira. The puck will drop on the championship game on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.

Utica outshot Saint Johns 53-20. For more information about Utica Pioneers hockey, visit https://uticapioneers.com.

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