Curry Ties Johnson and Wales in Third Annual Teddy Bear Toss Game

BY TYLER MILLIKEN // Nov. 20, 2016 //

The hockey team took their home ice Saturday afternoon in front of a crowd ready to donate teddy bears to children in need. They only needed to wait about seven minutes.

Intensity was high on both sides once the puck dropped in this Commonwealth Coast Conference matchup with Johnson and Wales University as Curry had been riding a four-game winning streak. Not to mention, the Colonels had some added pressure at the start of this matchup.

With the Teddy Bear Toss taking place, all the bears get thrown onto the ice when the Colonels score their first goal of the game. Due to this being such a highly attended event, it’s no surprise the team wanted to come out firing.

It would only take 7:08 for Curry to score that first goal. Junior forward Adam Valadao sent a scorching slap shot into the back of the net, thanks to a flawless pass from defensemen Jarret Kup. It marked both the third goal for Valadao and the third assist for Kup and sent stuffed teddy bears flying over the boards.

Junior Ryan Fitzgerald said after the game, “Everyone on the bench was ecstatic and jumping up and down giving high fives after the goal. It was just a really special moment for anyone who was a part of the team.”

The Colonels maintained the intensity and senior forward Tyler Vankleef extended the lead with two minutes left in the first frame. Vankleef used his stickhandling skills and placed one past Joey Ballmer for his CCC-best 11th goal of the season. Jake Heisinger and Alec Mono registered the assists that put Curry up 2-0 with 2:14 to go.

By the end of the first period, there were plenty of hits in the corners to keep the players jawing at each other. However, the Colonels retained a 14-8 lead in the shots category after the first 20.

The Wildcats bounced back early in the second, however, tying the game in the first seven minutes. Ben Brouillard, a senior forward, slapped a shot past Curry’s Ben Sinclair for their first goal of the game at the 2:55 mark.

Then, just minutes later, sophomore center Chad Guderian stole the puck and beat two defenders before zipping the puck just over Sinclair’s glove at the end of a Colonel power play.

The comeback wouldn’t shut down Curry, though, as it battled back to retake the lead with only minutes left on the clock.

Mono grabbed his second assist of the game as he found forward Shane Tracy who smacked the puck in the back of the net thanks to a screen in front of Ballmer.

Even though Johnson and Wales outscored the Colonels, Curry again took the shot advantage, this time 19-10.

As the third period rolled around, the Colonels appeared to begin to play it safe. They were no longer playing aggressive and seemed to be playing keep-away from the Wildcats.

Unfortunately, this new strategy failed to work after Tracy ended up in the box for hooking. At the end of that power play, Johnson and Wales tied the game with 11:52 remaining in regulation. Freshman Nicholas Gray netted the goal for the Wildcats after Connor Bates earned his second assist of the game on a pass right in front of the goal.

Johnson and Wales sustained their offensive pressure but Sinclair would come through and keep the game deadlocked at three by the time regulation ran out.

The five-minute overtime was short, but the Colonels had one great chance to win with 3:03 showing on the clock. Vankleef secured a breakaway, but a Wildcat tossed his stick and tripped him as he attempted to score.

Curry was given a penalty shot and Vankleef had the game on his stick.

He eyed up his challenger and took on the task that creates the longest distance between the blue line and the goal. Ballmer made a sliding effort to keep the puck out of the net and the game tied.

Over the final three minutes, neither team could get anything going and the game ended in a 3-3 draw.

Colonel goalie Ben Sinclair totaled 35 saves on the night, while Johnson and Wales’ Joey Ballmer racked up 42 due to Curry outshooting the Wildcats 45-38.

It wasn’t all negative, though, as teddy bears still came on the ice and Vankleef elaborated, “Seeing the bears come down was awesome. It’s what this event is all about. Getting those teddy bears and giving them back to the community and the sick kids in the hospital is a real good feeling.”

When speaking about how the Colonels might bounce back after a tough draw like this, Head Coach T.J. Manastersky explained that “It’s hard to tell. After a game like that, I don’t say much to them…We have the luxury of a week off from games, so it’ll be good to just be together and have some fun at the rink.”

After that week off, the Colonels will have the chance to resume their unbeaten streak Dec. 1 on the road at Endicott College, who is 3-2-2 on the season.

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