FITCHBURG — As far as losses go, they don’t get much more heartbreaking than the one suffered by Fitchburg State on Saturday.
Five seconds away from earning a draw against conference-leading Plymouth State, the Falcons saw their guests score the winner on a defensive breakdown, falling 3-2 in overtime at the Wallace Civic Center.
The puck had been pinned against the left boards in the Falcons’ end, but came free and found Plymouth State’s Niks Krollis unmarked in front and the senior defenseman deked past Fitchburg State goalie Max Macchioni and deposited the puck in the net with 4.8 seconds left to play.
“The kids really played their hearts out, but you have a defensive mistake and you can’t leave someone alone like that playing three-on-three,” Fitchburg State head coach Dean Fuller said. “I don’t really know what happened there. We’re going to have to take a look at the film and figure it out.
“For the most part, I thought the kids played a really solid hockey game.”
The Panthers (15-3-1) improved to 12-0-0 in conference play with the victory.
Gene Bouthiette scored twice and Macchioni posted 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 put anything past Panthers netminder Brendahn Brawley (34 saves).
“They played hard, but I just 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 in as the senior center found the puck loose in front of the Plymouth State net following a Nolan Sargent shot and fired a shot that trickled through Brawley and across the goal line.
After the Panthers pulled even on a Connor Tait power-play goal 5:45 into the second, Bouthiette potted his second of the game to give the lead back to the Falcons just 1:50 later. Camped out front, 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 chipping in with a couple goals was huge,” Fuller said. “He had a nice game today.”
But the Panthers found the equalizer with 4:44 as Carson Lanceleve’s shot off a rebound snuck past a sprawling Macchioni and into the net for Plymouth State’s second power-play marker of the afternoon.
Macchioni, for his part, was outstanding for most of the contest. In the second period, the freshman netminder posted 16 of his 29 saves as the Panthers threw shot after shot at him.
“Max is an excellent goaltender,” Fuller said. “I thought he did a great job tonight to keep us in the game.”
The Falcons return to the ice Thursday, hitting the road to face Salem State.