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Utica Pioneers fall to #1 Hobart in Division III Frozen Four

Credit: John Rice III

The second-ranked Utica Pioneers Men’s Hockey Team saw its season come to an end on Thursday after losing to #1 Hobart 3-1 in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament. Utica finishes the season with a record of 24-3-3.

With over half of the roster made up of first-year players and transfers, many expected this to be a down season for the Pioneers. They far exceeded expectations, finishing the regular season ranked number two in the Men’s Division III poll. 2023-24 was also the third consecutive season the Pioneers did not suffer a loss in regulation in their UCHC schedule.

#2 Utica Pioneers set to take on the #1 Hobart Statesmen

Chris Sugar of the DIII Hockey News (find him on X at @DIIIHockeyNews) was in Hartford, CT to cover the game. Here is his recap of the contest.

1st Period:

Hobart came out flying to start the game, Utica seemed to be on the defensive and not very aggressive early, possibly the experience difference between the two teams. Hobart’s #18 Austin Mourar scored early, a rapid 52 seconds into the game, giving the Statesmen the 1-0 lead in the opening minute.

Utica would ring a wrist shot off the post and the score remained 1-0 as that came at the 3:34 mark of the period. 

Hobart added another quick one, scoring at 7:25 was #82 Tanner Hartman to double the Statesmen lead in the opening period. They would keep control, but Utica’s Ethan Roberts held strong after a rocky start and kept it 2-0 headed into the 2nd period after a flurry of Hobart chances.

The Pioneers seemed to get their legs under them come period ends as the Hobart flurry was dealt with more efficiently than early on. Hobart goaltender Damon Beaver made a huge save with 2:08 left in the period, which would be a normal occurrence throughout the game.

2nd Period:

Roberts would come up big early for the Pioneers, making a big save in the opening moments of the period. The penalties would begin to pile up for both this period relative to the first period. Hobart picked up a minor penalty, Matthew Lasenza for slashing at 5:12 which they would kill off. 

The Pioneers got on the board at 9:55, it was Michael Herrera scoring the goal and cutting the Hobart lead in half halfway through the third period. 

Shane Murphy of the Utica Pioneers from a game earlier in the season. Photo credit: Scott Kinville

Hobart would pick up a penalty from Matthieu Wuth and Utica followed suit, picking up a penalty was #34 Khristian Acosta to make it 4v4 for a short time. Hobart’s Shane Shell missed a 1v1 opportunity which would’ve gotten his Statesman back up by a pair of goals, but couldn’t put it home.

The period would end with Hobart leading 2-1. 

3rd Period:

By this period you could tell Utica was playing its best hockey of the game. The Pioneers were comfortable it seemed and began where they left off in the 2nd period, playing with their best stuff, getting stopped by Damon Beaver, but playing well as a unit. 

For Hobart, the strict structure from Head Coach Mark Taylor stood strong in the final frame, giving the Pioneers very little opportunity. 

The 2nd period was the most action-packed in terms of back-and-forth, but this period was more back-and-forth defense not allowing much for either side. 

Utica pulled Roberts with about two minutes left for the 6v5 to try to muster the tying goal. Hobart would ice it off, and Shane Shell delivered the dagger to give the Statesmen the 3-1 victory. 

Utica’s season ends in the semifinals, and Hobart faces the winner of Adrian/Trinity on Saturday.

Photo credit: John Rice III, @DIIIHockeyNews Video Director.

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