(Nashua, NH) The Rivier College Raiders opened up GNAC Conference play with a convincing 14 to 9 win over the visiting Emerson College Lions. For the Raiders it was a strong team effort. They showed resilience in claiming the victory, overcoming an early 2 – 0 hole and pushing a narrow 9 – 8 halftime lead to a comfortable 5 goal final margin.
Emerson showed right from the start that the Raiders were in for a stronger test in today's game. They connected for the game's first goal, notched by Max Smith on a good passing play. The goal was the result of four strong offensive zone possessions for the visitors. Rivier had shorter possession plays too and managed to put together a strong scoring opportunity with a shot from Danny Hooper (sophomore, Wakefield, RI) and a nice save from Emerson goalkeeper Donald Welch. Emerson doubled their lead, taking a 2 – 0 advantage on a tally from Dan Gold in a nice 1 v1 effort.
The Raiders were quick to respond to their situation, winning the ensuing face-off and getting Hooper his second quality look of the day which he sent home and got Rivier on the board just 7 seconds after Emerson's tally. For the remainder of the 1st quarter, the Raiders took advantage of undisciplined play from Emerson. Mike Arricale (freshmen, Billerica, MA) scored on a delayed penalty with an assist from Hooper after a nice ground ball pick up. Rivier took a 3 – 2 lead on a man-up strike from Ryan Woolaver (freshmen, Tewksbury, MA). Woolaver's highlight for the quarter may have been his rip with just over 2 minutes left in the quarter that spiraled 40 feet into the air off of the crossbar. And he wasn't done, again getting a look with about 1:36 left in the 1st and putting away a nice placed shot with an assist from Shawn Donovan (sophomore, Tewksbury, MA).
In the 2nd quarter both teams again put together solid stretches of possession and traded strikes. Woolaver and Arricale continued to pace the Raiders offense, with Woolaver opening up the quarter with another man-up strike, and Arricale building the lead to 6 – 2 with a strike at the 11:43 mark. But Emerson hung in there, with a quick goal by Gold right off the ensuing face-off. Emerson would test the Rivier defense again, but this time they were thwarted by goalie Chris Benoit (junior, Blackstone, MA). The visitors pushed the pace in the middle of the 2nd quarter, scoring 4 goals in 5 minutes, 1 on a man-up, double penalty for Rivier by Smith. Two of the others were created and scored by Gold with some nice stick work to create shooting space before tucking away the goals. The Raiders answered with 2 goals from Donovan, and pushed out to a 9 – 6 lead, before giving up 2 goals in the final minute to take a 9 – 8 lead into the break.
Arricale and Woolaver opened up the 3rd quarter with back to back goals and both assists coming from Donovan. Over the course of the 3rd quarter Rivier stepped up their defensive play and took control of the game, outscoring the visiting Lions 3 - 1. On one of the nicest goals of the game, Arricale made a quick slashing run, carrying the ball from left to right diagonally in the attacking area. Under pressure he fired a sharp pass to Donovan just behind and to the left of the goal, and Donovan curled around quickly from the back and made a great pass to an unmarked Woolaver in front of the goal on the back post where he tapped home the Raider's third goal of the quarter.
Holding a 12 – 9 lead to open the 4th quarter, the Raiders received some sparkling goaltending from Benoit. Emerson generated two quality scoring chances over the first 5 minutes with Kyle Billings and Brady Darragh having great looks at goal, only to have their shots turned back by Benoit. Just over two minutes after Benoit made his second big save of the quarter, Rivier extended their lead to 14 – 8 on another goal from Arricale and another assist from Donovan. To bookend the scoresheet for Rivier, Hooper, who opened the day's goals for the home team, would score again with 6:46 left to close-out the scoring with an assist from Woolaver. The goal was the result of a nice full field transition from defense to attack on a nice clear. Emerson's Eric Colleran would make another bid for the visitors with a strong shot with 3:10 to go, only to be denied by an equally strong reaction and save from Benoit.
The Raiders extended their winning streak with a very strong second half. Rivier outscored Emerson 5 – 1, and got big defensive contributions from Will Snider (senior, Old Bridge, NJ), Cliff Aquino (freshmen, Waterbury, CT), and Danny Connelly (freshmen, Bedford, NH). With an important conference game in the balance the Raiders were able to rely on a strong defensive effort and disciplined play in the second half to close out the win. Benoit made a number of timely saves to push back attempted rallies by Emerson and to keep critical one and two goal cushions in the game.
With the win the Raiders improve to 4 and 0 on the season, and 1 and 0 in the GNAC. They return to action at home on Sunday at 1:00 pm versus Johnson State.