March 20, 2009 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Petizian Learns First Hand: 'Sports Can Be Cruel'

St. Lawrence Goaltender Gives Up Two Late Goals as Yale Earns Finals Berth

by Eben Novy-Williams/CHN Reporter

ALBANY, N.Y. — In retrospect it seems unfair – having 58 and a half minutes of solid hockey unraveled in just 94 seconds.

St. Lawrence head coach Joe Marsh had it right: “Sports can be cruel.”

But to fully understand exactly how much of an understatement that is, a college hockey fan need look no than the man between the pipes when things start to fall apart.

St. Lawrence junior goalie Alex Petizian was in goal for the No. 14 Saints in their ECAC Hockey semifinal showdown with No. 7 Yale on Friday at Albany’s Times-Union Center. With one minute, 34 seconds remaining, the game appeared all but over. The Saints, backed by a majority of the crowd, held a 3-2 lead, were outshooting the Bulldogs 17-5 in the period and controlling the majority of play. As play stopped for a Yale timeout, writers in the press area furiously typed ledes on stories about St. Lawrence’s berth in the ECAC championship game.

On the ice, Petizian was equally confident.

“We are usually pretty good in these situations,” Petizian said after the match. “6-on-5 we usually get it done, but [Yale] got a lucky bounce.”

The “lucky bounce,” a shot off the stick of Yale junior forward Mark Arcobello that hit a Saints defenseman before trickling past Petizian was the first of two Bulldog goals, scored just 22 seconds apart, that sent the Yale bench into a frenzy and writers scrambling for the backspace buttons on their keyboards. Yale 4, St. Lawrence 3.

“When we lose 4-3 in a more conventional way, I guess it is a little more palatable,” Marsh said. “But this is also what makes [sports] so exciting: desperation. It was do-or-die, they were desperate and they got the bounce. It was a tremendous hockey game.”

Petizian, however, was not as objective following the loss.

“Worst feeling I have ever had,” he said. When asked to elaborate, Petizian simply shook his head: “I can’t.”

At the post-game press conference, Petizian wore the look of a man contemplating the cruel reality of college hockey, or any other team sport for that matter. He and the Saints had played 58 and a half minutes of a 60-minute hockey game with intensity and passion. Petizian had stopped all but two of the Bulldogs’ 28 shots, and was just 94 short seconds away from the 18th and most important win of his junior season.

But those 94 seconds proved anything but short. Petizian claims he never saw Yale’s equalizer – “not until the last second, after it went off our guy” – and cannot be blamed for the game winner, a saucer pass to the far post where Yale forward Matt Nelson stood without a Saints defender to contest an easy tap-in.

“I was ready for the shooter,” Petizian said. “And [Nelson] was open backdoor. A little [defensive] mistake, but it is not a big deal.”

It is impossible to belittle what Petizian has accomplished this season. Coming into the tournament his .928 save percentage was the ninth-best in the nation, and he was ranked 12th in the country with a 2.13 goals against average. But more telling than any stat or ranking will be his play tomorrow in the consolation game against Princeton, where the winner is almost guaranteed a berth in next weekend’s NCAA tournament and the loser’s season ends.

“It hurts, it hurts big time, especially because we want to win this for the seniors...but were going to have to put this behind us for tomorrow’s game.”

Luckily for Petizian and the Saints, the season is not all lost for the team’s eight seniors. Tomorrow is a new day; one with more lucky bounces and more cruelty. More elation and more desperation.

As Marsh says, that’s the beauty of competition.

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