Hartford, Conn. – Junior forward Anthony Sabitsky (Sicklerville, N.J.) sent the puck past Endicott goalie Kevin Aldridge (Birmingham, Mich.) and into the back of the net, 4:15 into the second overtime, to lift the Trinity College men's hockey team to a 2-1, victory over the Endicott College Gulls in the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament Quarterfinals at the Koeppel Center in Hartford, Connecticut. The win sends Trinity to the tournament semifinals for the first time since its championship run in 2015. The Bantams will face St. Norbert at 6:30 p.m. at the Utica Memorial Auditorium in Utica, New York.
Trinity and Endicott combined for a staggering 119 total shots in the instant-classic which took 84:15 to be decided. Aldridge finished the evening with 67 saves, just three shy of tying the single-game NCAA Tournament record, while Trinity junior goalie Alex Morin (St. Hubert, Quebec) came up clutch in multiple spots for the Bantams as he tallied 49 stops. Both regulation goals came via the power-play while both teams combined for nine penalties.
After Sabitsky's game-winner, Trinity Head Coach Matt Greason could only lean against the glass behind the bench and let out a sigh of relief. "They are a very good team," said Greason about the Gulls. "They took it to us like nobody we have seen and were one of the hardest-working teams we've seen."
Both teams came out of the gates with high intensity in an evenly matched first period that saw a total of 36 combined shots. Endicott was whistled for the game's first penalty, 8:23 into the opening period, which put the Bantam power play offense to work early. Trinity nearly took a 1-0 lead when junior forward Tyler Whitney (Wakefield, Mass.) slid a pass across the front of the net to senior forward Ryan Cole (Anchorage, Alaska) who fired a one-timer on net, but Aldridge was there to make the save. After 15 minutes of scoreless action, Endicott had one of its best scoring chances of the game but could not convert thanks to great defense by Trinity senior captain Sam Johnson (Dallas, Texas). Gull sophomore Tommy Besinger (Milton, Mass.) fired a shot on net that was saved by Morin, but with Morin sprawled out on the ice out of position, the rebound bounced right to Logan Day (Seminole, Fla.) who had a wide open net in front of him. Johnson saved the would-be score as he slid in front of Day's shot, blocking the puck into the corner, and preserving the tied game. Morin came up with another big save, this time with just 0.9 seconds remaining in the period, as Besinger fired a shot from point-blank that the junior goalie snagged out of mid-air to send the game into the first intermission knotted at zeros.
Endicott ended the scoreless tie just 3:12 into the second period on a power-play goal by Josh Bowes (Edmonton, Alberta). Gull sophomore Carter Horwitz (Tustin, Calif.) skated towards the near-side post, drawing Morin to the right-side of the net, before he slipped a pass across the crease to Bowes, positioned at the back-side post, who buried a one-timer into the back of the net to give Endicott a 1-0 lead. Bowes almost made it a 2-0 advantage with 12:45 to play in the second period when he fired a wrist shot from just inside the blue line that looked destined for netting. The puck, however, bounced off the top corner of the goal and into the neutral zone without incident. Bowes met Morin once again, this time with Endicott on the penalty kill, but Bowes' shot, off a pass from Day, was stoned cold by Morin to keep the deficit at one. Trinity finally found its answer in the form of a Sean Orlando (Ivyland, Pa.) power-play goal with under five minutes remaining in the second frame. Bantam rookie Liam Feeney (Foxboro, Mass.) set the play up with a pass from the point to Sabitsky. Sabitsky slipped a pass in front of Aldridge to Orlando who was positioned in the slot and clapped a one-timer into the back of the net to even the score.
The Gulls were whistled for interference with six seconds remaining in the second period which put Trinity on the power play to start the third. Endicott's penalty kill unit did its job to keep the Bantams from taking the lead despite a flurry of shots on net in the first two minutes. Trinity outshot Endicott, 20-8, in the third period but Aldridge came up clutch between the pipes for the Gulls multiple times. None more so than with 25 seconds remaining when the Ryan Cole and classmate and brother Brandon Cole (Anchorage, Alaska) led a two-on-one. Brandon fed Ryan near the front of the net who had a good scoring chance, but Aldridge slid in front of the shot to make the save. Morin similarly came up clutch for Trinity with 19 seconds left, shutting the door on a shot attempt from Bowes to send the game to overtime.
A Trinity boarding penalty gave the Gulls a man-up advantage just 43 seconds into the extra period but Endicott couldn't capitalize on a handful of open looks at net. Besinger had the best chance at a game-winner with Morin out of position, but his shot hit the back glass as it missed wide. Sabitsky and Feeney fired shots on net with ten minutes remaining in the extra period but Aldridge was there both times to make the save. Endicott went back on the power play at the 8:39 mark but Trinity's defense stepped up in a big way as they killed the penalty successfully, highlighted by a Morin save on a shot from Joseph Slovak (South Yarmouth, Mass.) with eight seconds remaining in the penalty. Neither team could find the back of the net in the first overtime session as both goalies combined for 22 saves before the two teams entered the evening's third intermission.
In the second overtime, Morin continued to stand on his head, making six saves before the late-game heroics from Sabitsky. A Morin save on an Endicott shot from Lloyd Hayes (West Newbury, Mass.) turned into the game-winner as Ryan Cole streaked down ice with the puck. Cole drew a Gull defender to him before he sent the puck into the middle to Sabitsky who put his stick on the puck and redirected it into the back of the goal, sending Trinity's bench onto the ice in a frenzied celebration.
"It was a great play by Ryan," said Sabitsky after the game. "He centered it and it went off me and in. It was kind of lucky but sometimes you need some luck to win a game like that."
"Special teams find a way to get things done and this is a special team," added Greason in the post-game presser. "I wanted to have another week with these guys. They deserve it."
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