FITCHBURG – As far as losses go, they don’t come any sadder than the one suffered by Fitchburg State on Saturday.
Five seconds away from tying conference-leading Plymouth State, the Falcons saw their visitors score the winner on a defensive lapse, falling 3-2 in overtime at the Wallace Civic Center.
The puck was stuck behind the left boards in the Falcons’ end, but came loose and found Plymouth State’s Niks Krollis unmarked in front and the senior defenseman got past Fitchburg State goalie Max Macchioni and put the puck in the net with 4.8 seconds left in the to. Play.
“The kids really played their hearts out, but you have a lapse on defense and you can’t leave someone like that alone playing three-on-three,” Fitchburg State coach Dean Fuller said. “I don’t really know what happened there. We’ll have to take a look at the film and figure it out.
“For the most part, I thought the kids played a really solid game of hockey.”
The Panthers (15-3-1) improved to 12-0-0 in conference play with the win.
Gene Bouthiette scored twice and Macchioni made 29 saves for Fitchburg State (8-8-3, 6-4-3 MASCAC), but the Panthers did their damage on the power play, going 2-for-7 on the afternoon.
The Falcons had their chances with the man advantage, but went 0-for-6 on the power play, unable to get anything behind Panthers netminder Brendahn Brawley (34 saves).
“They played hard, but I wish we could have gotten something going on the power play and gotten a better result,” Fuller said.
Bouthiette’s first goal of the game came just 1:11 into the game after the senior center found the puck loose in front of the Plymouth State net on a Nolan Sargent puck and fired a shot past Brawley and along the goal line.
After the Panthers pulled back on a Connor Tait power-play goal 5:45 into the second, Bouthiette scored his second goal of the game to give the Falcons the lead just 1:50 later. Set forward, the Enfield, Connecticut native found the rebound off a Wyatt Wilmshurst shot and fired it into the back of the net.
Jack Johansen was also credited with an assist on Fitchburg State’s second goal of the day.
“Gene’s effort with a couple of goals was huge,” Fuller said. “He had a nice game today.”
But the Panthers found the tying goal with 4:44 left as Carson Lanceleve’s jump shot snuck past a big Macchioni and into the net for Plymouth State’s second point of the afternoon.
Macchioni, for his part, was outstanding for most of the race. In the second period, the freshman netminder posted 16 of his 29 saves as the Panthers threw shot after shot at him.
“Max is a great goalkeeper,” Fuller said. “I thought he did a great job tonight of keeping us in the game.”
The Falcons return to the ice Thursday, hitting the road to face Salem State.