WESTFIELD, Mass. – Westfield State freshman Chris Melendez (Miami, Fla.) scored his first collegiate goal, which also proved to be the eventual game-winner in the Owls' 5-2 win over Salem State University on Saturday night.
Melendez's goal, although coming at 15:26 of the second period, was the game-winner in the contest thanks to a late powerplay goal from Salem State in the third period.
With the win, the Owls (11-5-4) move to 9-3-2 in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC), inching closer to the top spot in the league. The Vikings (4-12-4) fall to 4-7-2 in the conference.
Similar to Thursday night's matchup with Worcester State, the Owls outshot Salem by a large margin in the first period (17-6), controlling much of the play. Each team had power play chances in the period, but neither could take advantage of it to get themselves on the board.
However in the second, the Owls wasted no time jumping out to the lead as Danny Ferri's (Chelmsford, Mass.) third of the season put the home team up 1-0 only 1:55 into the period. Ferri picked up a misplay from a Salem State defensemen winding around the net and tucked a shot just inside the left post for the goal.
Westfield continued to add to the lead when Robert Neuwirth (Zlin, Czech Republic) took a nice give-and-go pass from Francois-Xavier Girard (St. Lazare, Quebec) through the neutral zone, broke in all alone, and shoveled a backhander just over Salem State goaltender Sean Cleary's (Barnstable, Mass.) glove to put the Owls up 2-0.
Salem would slow the Westfield momentum midway through the period and then finally broke through with junior Landon Hasenfuss' (Hanover, Mass.) third goal of the year. Defensemen Matt Yianacopolus (Wakefield, Mass.) sent a beautiful stretch pass up the left-wing side to Spencer DeRidder (Rochester, N.Y.) who carried it into the Owl zone and slid a nice one-time pass over to Hasenfuss who tucked it five-hole for the finish.
The Owls would answer back a few minutes later after Jake Ratcliffe (Canterbury, New Zealand) caught the Vikings in a line change and sent a pass up to the freshman Chris Melendez for the breakway. Melendez moved in and gave Cleary a head fake and shoved a backhand into the upper part of the night for his first collegiate tally and a 3-1 Owl lead.
Westfield then made it a 4-1 game after Wyatt Lawrence (Sexsmith, Alberta) joined in the scoring. Thierry Messervier (Montreal, Quebec) wrapped the puck around the defensive zone to Joseph Carbone (Marshfield, Mass.) on the half boards who skated it up the ice and ripped a shot that bounced off of Cleary's chest and found the stick of Lawrence who finished it to extend the lead early in the third. The goal also gave Messervier the first assist of his career, something not too common for a goaltender.
The Owls sat on the lead for most of the period until Connor Woolley's (Albany, N.Y.) blast from the point on the powerplay brought the contest to a two-goal game once again.
But it would prove to be too little, too late for the Vikings as Daniel Backstrom (Helsinki, Finland) would tack on an empty-netter to secure the Owl victory, 5-2.
Cleary finished with 40 saves on the night, while Messervier held 25 of his own. The Vikings finished 1-2 on the powerplay and kept Westfield's man-advantage unit off the board for the first time in three games.