The Utica College men's hockey team clinched at least a piece of the ECAC West Conference title by defeating Manhattanville 5-3 on Friday night at the Aud.

The win accomplished a great deal for the Pioneers.  Combined with Elmira's OT loss to Hobart, Utica earned at least a tie for first place in the ECAC West (a win tonight or an Elmira loss will win the title outright).  Utica also earned the top seed in the ECAC Conference tournament which will begin at home at 12 noon on Sunday, March 2nd Tickets go on sale Saturday at noon for that game.

The win was also key for Utica's standing in the nation and a hopeful berth into the NCAA tournament.  Utica will need to win tonight in order to keep those hopes alive.  They are currently ranked 15th in the nation.  The ECAC West Conference does not have an automatic berth into the tournament for its champions. A win against Manhattanville tonight will give Utica their 6th straight win and will put them back in the hunt for a spot in the tournament.

Utica senior Ridge Garbutt (Toronto, Ontario/Brewster Academy (NH)) led the way for the Pioneers with two short-handed tallies and he now leads the nation as the only player in the country with four short-handed goals this season. Garbutt currently leads the team with 11 goals and he ranks second in scoring with 23 total points. He now has 67 career points in 75 games played. 50 of his 67 career points have come over the course of the last two seasons.

Senior forward Trever Hertz (Jaffray, British Columbia/Quesnel Millionaires (BCHL)) tied his career-high with three assists and became just the third player in program-history to break the 100 point barrier for his career. He now has 102 career points in 101 games played. Hertz has nine points in his last five outings and leads UC with 25 total points this year.

UC got on the board just 4:27 into the contest as junior All-American Louie Educate (Chicago, IL/Aberdeen (NAHL)) netted his sixth of the year, off assists from Garbutt and Hertz. Just two and a half minutes later, the Valiants converted a power-play opportunity to even the score as Luc Van Natter netted his 13th of the year. Anton Racklin and Louie Balzano assisted on Van Natter's tally.

Utica dominated the third period of play, outscoring the visitor's 3-0 in the stretch. Garbutt opened the second period scoring just 2:54 in, off assists from Hertz and freshman Kevin Kirisits (Buffalo, NY/Brockville (CCHL)) to help UC regain the lead, 2-1. Senior forward Adam Graff (Bear, DE/Syracuse Stars (EJHL)) snapped a four game drought without a goal and put UC on top 3-1 when he tallied an unassisted score midway through the period. Graff now has 10 goals this season. Justin Hogan (Val Therese, Ontario/Brooks Bandits (AJHL)) capped the strong second period for the Pioneers with his fifth of the season, assisted by senior Jordan Hobaica (Clinton, NY/Northwood School) and George Lotito (Staten Island, NY/NH Jr. Monarchs (EJHL)), to put the home squad on top 4-1 headed into the final period of action.

Manhattanville got one back just over halfway through the third period as Van Natter tallied his second of the night, off an assist from Jake Mooney. In the final two minutes, Utica got into penalty trouble, leading to a 5-on-3 power play for the Valiants. Manhattanville was able to capitalize on the two-man advantage, scoring with 28 seconds remaining to bring the score to 4-3. Garbutt was able to ice the game with 1.8 seconds remaining as he tallied an empty netter, his second shorthanded goal of the game, to secure the win.

Utica senior goalie Nick Therrien (Rochester, NH/NY Apple Core (EJHL)) made 31 saves in his fifth straight win, while Alex Scola had 24 saves in the loss for the Valiants. Therrien now has 45 career wins and is just two wins shy of tying the program record for wins in a career set by UC alum Adam Dekker back in 2008.