Sophomore winger Billy McKinley earned an early hat trick as Central Connecticut hockey won two of their three weekend games. The Blue Devils late comeback win over Montclair State University was their first divisional win of the season in as many games.
CCSU took part in the Lawrenceville Invitational Tournament Friday and Saturday, facing off against Rider and Seton Hall for its’ final games before the start of conference play.
Penalties bit the Blue Devils in their match against Rider. CCSU was heavily penalized throughout the game, something the Broncs were quick to capitalize on. Three of Rider’s four goals came on the power play, the last coming late in the second.
The defense snapped into things after the second period. They didn’t allow another score from the Broncs. The Blue Devils had scoring opportunities in the third, including a power play opportunity halfway through the third, but were unable to net anything on Rider, falling 4-0.
While the power play defense was highlighted in the loss, head coach Mitch Beck believes the defense has greatly improved as the season has progressed.
“We were struggling to find our place defensively, but it’s starting to come along,” Beck said. “It’s still not exactly where I want it to be, or even where the players want it to be, but it’s getting better with each passing game.”
CCSU quickly bounced back for their final game in the tournament. McKinley started off the scoring in the first, with senior Luca Pipaola following shortly after to berate the Seton Hall defense with scores.
After the first period gave the Blue Devils a 3-0 advantage, McKinley put the game out of reach on his own in the second. Two goals came in from the winger in less than two minutes, notching McKinley his first hat trick of the year. As a freshman, McKinley scored three goals against Siena and New Haven, and tallied an astounding four goals against Bryant.
The Blue Devils rolled on to a 9-1 victory over Seton Hall to close out the tournament.
The final win of the weekend did not come so easily for the Blue Devils in their first conference match.
Montclair struck first with another power play goal against CCSU, this one coming during a 4-on-4.
Neither team did much scoring after the opening goal. The Redhawks entered the final period with that same 1-0 lead, but the Blue Devils answered in the third.
Billy McKinley again ignited the offense, scoring the tying goal with 15 minutes left to play. Ryan Berry, who had a goal against the Broncs, scored the game winner for CCSU in the final eight minutes, which was all the Blue Devils required to secure the gritty 2-1 win.
“To be successful in anything, specifically sports, you have to believe in yourself and have confidence,” head coach Mitch Beck said. “We kept things close in the first two periods, but in between periods we talked about how we just have to keep doing what we’re doing. Then to see that pay off matters and that’s what you can build upon.”
The Blue Devils will be going on one final road stand this weekend as they take on Siena and RPI. The away games start after CCSU takes on in-state opponent Connecticut College at home Friday.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence coming in and we’re going to work hard in practice and try to continue to improve,” Beck said. “You can’t get stagnant, we can’t be contempt with where we are. We’ve got so much talent in terms of personalities, it’s such a good tight group, that the only place we can go is up.”