Captain’s hat trick paces team’s major offensive explosion
The Kent State hockey team celebrates after freshman Darian Thomas’ goal Saturday night at the Ice Arena. The goal was the Flashes’ ninth in their 11-2 win over Lehigh. Rachel Kilroy | Daily Kent Stater
Credit: DKS Editors
The Kent State hockey team came out strong at home Saturday, with seven different players scoring in an 11-2 win over Lehigh to snap the team’s three-game losing streak.
“It feels great, especially after last weekend,” senior forward Chris Hourigan said. “We needed a big game. It puts us back on track.”
Hourigan, Kent State’s captain, led the team in goals on the night with his second hat trick of the year, but by the time he scored his first goal, the game was already out of reach for Lehigh.
His first goal came late in the second period to put Kent State up 6-1. Halfway through the third period he added his second, and the hat-trick goal came with just under four minutes left in the game.
“Obviously, he’s a goal scorer,” Kent State coach Jarret Whidden said. “That’s his role. It was good to see guys really play their roles tonight.”
Kent State scored three goals in the first period, and freshman goalie Anthony Natoli did not allow a goal until the middle of the second period. Lehigh scored at the start of the third period, but Kent State responded with a five-goal streak to end the game.
Senior forwards John Stefani and Mike Nelson also scored multiple goals in the game with two each.
“Me and my linemate Jason O’Bannon were really working together,” Nelson said. “He gave me all the passes.”
Before the game, the team recognized O’Bannon, a senior forward, for being selected as a member of Team USA in the World University Games. He will be competing in China in two weeks, making Saturday his last home game.
“It feels good to go out with a win,” said O’Bannon, who had three assists.
While Kent State’s offense kept the team ahead on the scoreboard, the defense prevented Lehigh from gaining momentum.
Senior forward Stu Smith sent a message by delivering a powerful check to a Lehigh player in the second period, sending him headfirst over the boards and into the Kent State bench.
“Stu is a big guy, and his role is to create room by contact,” Whidden said. “He makes sure the other team is aware that we’re going to be playing the body.”
The key for the Flashes was playing physically without spending too much time in the penalty box – a recent problem for the team.
“Our discipline was better tonight,” Whidden said. “We were disciplined moreso than we have been in the past.”
With the season coming to a close, Stefani hopes the team can stay consistent.
“We need to keep the same momentum going,” Stefani said. “Everybody needs to work hard. We need to be getting the puck to the net.”
Kent State meets Pittsburgh in the final home game of the season Friday. The game will also serve as Senior Night to honor players and parents in their last game at the Ice Arena.
Contact club sports reporter Carolyn Drummond at [email protected]