Clinton, N.Y. - Senior forward Ryan Cole (Anchorage, Alaska) fired a shot from the corner that bounced into the back of the net, sending the rest of his teammates onto the ice in a frenzied celebration as the Trinity College men's hockey team defeated the Hamilton College Continentals, 3-2, in overtime of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Men's Hockey Championship game on Sunday at Sage Rink in Clinton, N.Y. The Bantams, who found themselves trailing, 2-0, with less than two minutes remaining in the second period, win the NESCAC title for the second straight year after hoisting the conference trophy last season on their home ice in Hartford, and fourth time in program history. With the win, Trinity earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament which will be released in full tomorrow morning at 10:30 a.m.
"This game tested our emotions more than any game we've been in since the National Championship," said Head Coach Matt Greason. "Going down 0-2 in an unbelievable environment, one of the best we've seen, and to have the resolve to come back and get those two goals. We got the bounce. We knew this game was going to come down to a bounce and we're just thankful it was us today."
After allowing the pair of Continental goals late in the second period, Trinity junior goalie Alex Morin (St. Hubert, Quebec) stood on his head for the rest of the game to keep Hamilton off the scoreboard and give Trinity a shot to win it. Morin finished with 36 saves on the day while his counterpart, Continental junior Evan Buitenhuis (Burlington, Ontario), tallied 45 stops as Trinity won the shot battle, 48-38.
After a scoreless first period, both teams picked up the intensity in the second frame. The two teams tallied 29 combined shots but none found the back of the net until 17:03 in when Hamilton rookie Bennett Morrison (Bolton, Ontario) scored an unassisted goal to put the tournament hosts up 1-0. Less than 30 seconds later, Hamilton doubled up to make it a 2-0 game when Robbie Murden (Georgetown, Ontario) stuffed the puck past Morin in heavy traffic near the net. With momentum favoring the Continentals, Trinity proved unphased.
With 1:51 remaining in the period, the Bantams chipped away at the deficit when first-year Liam Feeney (Foxboro, Mass.) sniped a shot past Buitenhuis from just inside the blue-line to make it a 2-1 game. Juniors Anthony Sabitsky (Sicklerville, N.J.) and Connor Hegarty (Wakefield, Mass.) were credited with assists on the goal. Trinity capped off the second period scoring with a second goal with just 18 seconds remaining, this time by senior forward Brandon Cole (Anchorage, Alaska). Senior captain Sean Orlando (Ivyland, Pa.) acted as the catalyst after streaking down ice and firing a wrist shot that bounced high off the shoulder pad of Buitenhuis. After the initial save, Cole came crashing in towards the back-side post and knocked the puck out of the air and into the top corner of the net to send the two teams into the second intermission locked in a 2-2 battle.
Neither team found the net in the final period of regulation, due largely in part to the play of both goalies. Trinity earned a pair of power plays but did not convert either as Buitenhuis stopped all nine shots that came his way during the third period. Morin was similarly bullish between the pipes as he made 10 saves in the period to keep the Hamilton faithful from celebrating.
After three minutes of play in the extra session, Trinity earned a faceoff to Buitenhuis' right in the Hamilton defensive zone. Sabitsky won the faceoff for the Bantams as they tried to set up an offense, but Hamilton's defense initially prevented a clean control. That was until the puck bounced towards the corner and was corralled by Ryan Cole, who fired a wrist shot on net that deflected off of Buitenhuis and over the crease line, as Trinity's bench emptied onto the ice to mob Cole and celebrate the championship.
"It was an awesome game between two great teams," said Ryan Cole, with a smile on his face after the game. "Sometimes games like this can come down to a lucky bounce. Hamilton played really well, we played really well too. Alex Morin was outstanding in net for us. It just came down to a lucky bounce and sometimes that's all it takes. We're excited to see what we can do moving forward."
"We just took the momentum back and refused to be denied," added Greason. "Now, we're just happy to get back to Hartford and share this with the rest of campus."