The nationally ranked #3 Utica College men's hockey team won the UCHC conference championship on Saturday with a convincing 6-2 win over Wilkes University at the Adirondack Bank Center.  It was Utica's 20th straight win and their 2nd UCHC championship in the last three years.

The win gives Utica an automatic bid into the NCAA hockey tournament which begins next weekend. Utica is among the eight teams with an automatic conference championship bid while an additional four teams will be selected at large. The selection show will air at 10:30 a.m. on Monday at NCAA.com.

The Pioneers opened the scoring with 1:34 remaining in the first period when freshman Dante Zapata scored shorthanded for his 11th of the year and fourth goal in as many games.

Photo by Ed Schmidt / WIBX

Utica extended its lead with a pair of goals in the second period.  The first came at 6:37 off the stick of Jarrod Fitzpatrick, for his seventh of the season. The Pioneers took a 3-0 lead at 14:04 of the second when Jamie Bucell hit the top right corner of the net for his third of the year.

Wilkes scored a goal in the second and one in the third. Utica would seal the victory with three goals in the third period scored by Buster Larsson, John Moncovich, and Conor Landrigan.

Senior goalie Gianluca Baggetta finished the night with 23 saves for his 17th straight win. Utica is now 25-2-2 overall and 15-2-1 in the UCHC.

Utica will likely get a bye in the first round of the NCAA tournament and will play their first game at home in the quarter finals on March 21st. The national championship series will be played inside the LECOM Harborcenter in Buffalo on March 27th and 28th.