Jelinski scores in OT, lifts Blue Devils past Bengals, 3-2

BUFFALO — Kyle Jelinski made a triumphant return from a near season-ending injury to score the game-winning overtime goal Wednesday as Fredonia defeated Buffalo State, 3-2, in the first round of the SUNYAC men’s hockey tournament.

Jelinski’s first goal of the season came at 8:04 in overtime on a backhander, set up by Bobby Polachek with a pass from the right boards off a 2-on-1 rush out of the defensive end. It was Jelinski’s first game back since Jan. 22 when he was helped off the ice vs. Brockport at Steele Hall.

Tyler Riter and Luke Rivera had the other Fredonia goals. Eric Bogart made 30 saves to improve to 11-5-1 in goal for Fredonia.

The Blue Devils, the No. 5 seed, improved to 15-7-4 overall heading into their semifinal meeting Saturday night at No. 2 seed Geneseo — a rematch of last year’s SUNYAC championship game. Game time is 7 p.m. Plattsburgh visits Oswego in the other SUNYAC semifinal.

“I loved our bench life tonight,” Fredonia Head Coach Jeff Meredith said. “We had lots of belief and patience. We’re excited about the opportunity in front of us.”

Riter put Fredonia on top at 19:21 with a one-timer from the slot. It came after a major penalty on Buffalo State gave the Blue Devils a five-minute power play which carried over into the second period. It was Riter’s second goal of the season.

The Bengals appeared to tie the game late in the second period. An odd-man rush led to two shots, followed by a celebration on the ice by the Bengals and by their fans in the stands. The on-ice officials reversed the call and took down the goal after a discussion with the goal judge.

The pace quickened and play opened up in the third period.

Buffalo State pulled even when Anthony Tulipane tucked the puck into the short side following a teammate’s shot from the point. The Blue Devils regained the lead, 2-1, on Rivera’s 11th goal of the season, a wrap-around to the right of Buffalo State goaltender Connor Minch. The Bengals again tied it, this time at 2-2, on Hayden Ford’s back-hander from the slot at the 7:07 mark of the third period.

Before the period ended, the Blue Devils killed off their first penalty of the game and had two great scoring chances in the final seconds of regulation.

That set the stage for Jelinski’s heroics in overtime.