In a chippy back and forth affair, it was the University of Central Oklahoma Bronchos that (23-6-2) prevailed over the Stony Brook University Seawolves (25-2-2) Saturday night at The Rinx. UCO edged out SBU 3-2 after winning in the shootout of a tight game.

With one more game on the regular season schedule before the Eastern States Collegiate Hockey League Playoffs, Head Coach Chris Garofalo doesn’t believe his team’s confidence will be affected much by the loss.

The UCO Bronchos took a page from the book of the Denver Broncos NFL team with its stifling defense in the first period before SBU gained back the momentum the following two frames.

“I think what would have hampered the confidence would be if we had a bad second and third period,” Garofalo said. “I think that controlling a lot of the play in the second and third gives us the confidence we needed. The shootout is a flip of a quarter. Whoever has the better shot at the goalie, that’s what it really comes down to.”

Senior forward Tyler Underhill scored late in the first period to cut the UCO lead to 2-1 and swing the momentum back in the Seawolves’ favor when he glided down the left wing and snapped it top shelf against goaltender Alex Henry.  

UCO had gotten off to a fast start, dominating the neutral zone and scoring two goals in 31 seconds. Tyler Minx opened the scoring after moving in on a deke and Donny Danroth followed suit.

The second period saw Henry and SBU senior goaltender Derek Willms make save after save. It wasn’t until 4:10 remained in the second period that captain JT Hall took advantage of a mini-breakaway when the puck broke loose and snapped it past Henry to tie the game at two goals each.

One of the main factors of the game was the grit, especially late in the game. The two teams were laying had hits on each other, with a few scrums ensuing.

“After losing to UCO in last year’s National Championship, we had a little grit towards them and they had a little grit towards us,” junior forward Hall said. “All in all, it was a good game.”

Willms’ play between the pipes was a large factor to SBU not falling too far behind early in the game and making it to a shootout. He made several saves in tight in the second period, including one on a tight breakaway followed by a save down low by the crease.

“I felt comfortable pretty much in net the whole game,” Willms said. “It took us awhile to catch up to the speed of UCO because we’re not used to playing such high level teams. UCO is a top-five team.”

SBU will look to rebound against UCO on Sunday when they meet again at The Rinx. Garofalo said that Willms’ stellar play will get him the start in the back-to-back games.

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