Bengals unbeaten through first four games of season


Buffalo State Athletics

Sophomore goaltender Justine Silva allowed a single goal to Utica in a weekend sweep.

Ryan Mullen, Reporter

The Buffalo State women’s hockey team (3-0-1, 2-0 in ECAC West) started off the year where they left it. Last year, the team went 18-8, winning its first five conference games. The team finished the season with a 10-2 record at home. Despite great success in the regular season, the Bengals were knocked out of the ECAC West playoffs in the quarterfinals.

But there is something different about this team. Last year, the team started off the year on an impressive eight-game win streak. Last year, they split the series with Utica. This year, they took both games in impressive fashion.

“It’s super important. I don’t think people even realize. The freshmen don’t realize all conference points matter. They determine who goes into the tournament, who goes wherever,” senior forward Viivi Vaattovaara said. “It doesn’t matter how good we play if we lose conference points, because that’s what determines ultimately how far we’ll go.”

The Bengals beat D-III national No. 9 Utica by a score of 2-1 on Friday and 1-0 on Saturday. Saturday’s win was a physical affair that sent players from both teams to the box for a total of 24 minutes. However, no team could score in the defensive bout. The team to make the first mistake was surely to lose.

Utica made that mistake very late in the game. Junior forward Erin Gehen, with the puck, cut to the middle of the ice. It was a one-on-one, and she fired it to the top-left and hit the back of the net with 1:47 in the game to give the Bengals the late lead and ultimately the win.

The Bengals only managed to get one win against Utica last year, so taking these two wins and four points against the nationally ranked conference opponent is a huge boost.

“We battled hard. I think that game could’ve gone either way for us tonight,” Buffalo State head coach Candice Moxley said. “They are a tough team, they are a ranked team early on, and knowing them from last year, we knew it was going to be some tough points for us to get. But all our girls came and rose to the occasion and battled hard.”

With two big wins in conference play early in the year, the Bengals look primed to make a run in the ECAC playoffs. Last year, the Bengals hosted a playoff game for the first time in program history. They lost only three seniors and are looking to build off last season’s success.

But the Bengals have seven new faces and plenty of talent and experience coming back this year to help them make a push in the playoffs. Buffalo State’s top scorer, Gehen (27 points on 17 goals and 10 assists), showed why she led the team in goals and total points last year with her performance on Saturday. Junior goaltender Justine Silva was stellar in net against Utica with her first shutout of the year. Silva had a tremendous save percentage last year at .941.

“I think we can finish higher than we have before,” Vaattovaara said. “We’ve had a few years where we had some tough losses at the end of the season and I think this is the year that we can turn this around in our favor.”

The Bengals continue their quest to the top of the conference with another ECAC conference matchup against Potsdam. They will travel to play the Bears on Friday at 7 p.m. and again on Saturday at 2 p.m.

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