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SLU earns double OT win in opening game of post-season play at Appleton



CANTON — Score round one for St. Lawrence University.

Freshman defenseman Eric Sweetman scored one minute, 27 seconds into the second overtime on an assist from Jeremy Wick to lift the eighth-seeded Saints past ninth-seeded Brown, 3-2, on Friday night in Game 1 of an ECAC Hockey first-round playoff series at Appleton Arena.

Senior goalie Matt Weninger made 26 saves, including 13 stops in the first overtime, to secure the win for St. Lawrence (14-17-4).

The Saints can clinch the best-of-three series with a win at 7 tonight. Game 3, if necessary, will be played at 7 on Sunday night, also in Canton.

“It’s pretty exhilarating,” Sweetman said. “But it’s only one game and it’s only one goal — we have a long way to go.”

St. Lawrence came out strong in the second overtime by generating three shots on net before Sweetman followed with the deciding goal. After Wick worked the puck away from a defender, he sent a pass to Sweetman, who fired it over freshman’s goalie Tyler Steel’s right shoulder on a blast from the deep left point.

“I saw Wick come across the middle and he kind of set a pick and gave it to me,” said Sweetman, who scored just his second goal of the season and his first game-winner at the collegiate level. “I just wanted to get the puck to the net and I was lucky it went in.”

“It’s always nice to see guys who don’t usually score come up with big goals for us,” St. Lawrence coach Greg Carvel said. “Eric did a really nice job finishing that one off.”

Senior forwards Kyle Essery and Greg Carey also scored for St. Lawrence, which led 2-1 through two periods only to surrender the lead in the final minute of regulation.

“It ended up being a real good game,” Brown coach Brendan Whittet said, “ ... and credit to them, they came out really, really hard in the second overtime and we couldn’t get out of our zone. The kid made a nice play off the wall to get it to him (Sweetman).”

Brown (11-16-3), which never led, tied the game on Nick Lappin’s goal with 54.2 seconds remaining in regulation.

“The overtime and the third period were stressful,” said Weninger, who has now won both of his career playoff overtime games. “It was tough giving that one up. But we regrouped and pulled it out — that’s all that counts.”

The Bears, heavily outshot in regulation, 31-15, generated nearly as many chances in the first overtime with a 13-11 shot advantage.

Weninger, who denied Mark Naclerio’s partial breakaway bid early on after regulation, later stopped Lappin’s drive from in close midway through the period.

“I thought Matt played really well, especially when we needed him to,” Carvel said.

Earlier in the first overtime, Steel made six saves during a St. Lawrence power play to keep the Saints at bay.

Steel finished with 43 saves for the Bears, who reached the ECAC Hockey title game last year.

Carvel was pleased with the overall effort of the Saints, who finished with a 46-28 advantage in shots.

“I’m very happy with the way we played,” Carvel said. “I think we can be a little better because I think we lacked a little urgency in getting more pucks to the net. But we moved the puck well and played the way we need to play against that team.”

After a scoreless first period, the Saints struck first as Essery took a goal-mouth feed from Brian Ward and sent the puck past Steel 4:42 into the second.

The Bears broke a lengthy scoring drought on Zack Pryzbek’s rebound goal to draw even at 1-1 at the 14-minute mark. Following a short video review, the goal was upheld.

Carey broke a 1-1 tie with the Saints on a two-man advantage as he snapped a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle past Steel at 18:46 of the second period.

“I don’t think we particularly started off the game well, but we played a great third period,” Whittet said. “But it’s a tribute to them (the Saints) — they played great team defense.”

■ NOTES: Sweetman’s goal was his first in 30 games since he scored in the fourth game of the season. ... This marked the Saints’ first overtime game in their last nine playoff games, when they defeated Yale, 4-3 in the quarterfinal round in 2011. ... St. Lawrence went 0-0-4 in overtime decisions during regular season. ... Lappin is the son of former Saints standout Peter Lappin.

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