Hartford, Conn. – For the third-straight season, the Trinity College men's ice hockey team lifted a championship trophy as the team won it's second consecutive and fourth-ever New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Championship before reaching the NCAA Division III Championship game for the second time in the last three seasons. The Bantams finished the year as the No. 2-ranked team in the country after falling to Norwich University in the National Championship game.
Trinity, under the guidance of sixth-year head coach Matt Greason, finished the year with a 21-7-3 overall record and an 11-5-2 mark in NESCAC play to finish the regular season in third place. The Bantams rattled off three wins en route to the conference crown, capped off by a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory at Hamilton in the championship game, to bring the NESCAC title back to Hartford. Trinity earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament where they thumped Plattsburgh State at home in the opening round before edging Endicott, 2-1 in double-overtime on a game-winner by junior Anthony Sabitsky (Sicklerville, N.J.) to advance to the Frozen Four.
In the NESCAC title game against the Continentals, senior forward Ryan Cole (Anchorage, Alaska) played the hero, scoring the game-winner roughly three minutes into overtime, in a game where the Bantams found themselves down, 2-0, with less than two minutes remaining in the second period. With 1:51 remaining in the second, the Bantams chipped away at the deficit when first-year Liam Feeney (Foxboro, Mass.) sniped a shot from just inside the blue-line that found the back of the net. Trinity scored again with 18 seconds left in the period when senior forward Brandon Cole (Anchorage, Alaska) cleaned up a rebound off a shot by senior captain Sean Orlando (Ivyland, Pa.) to tie the game. After a scoreless third, Ryan Cole 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. Junior goalie Alex Morin (St. Hubert, Quebec) helped lead Trinity to the win with 36 saves between the pipes.
After earning wins in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, the Bantams squared off against St. Norbert in the national semifinals at the Utica Memorial Auditorium in Utica, N.Y. Trinity came out on top, 3-2, in a back-and-forth, instant-classic. Senior captain defenseman Sam Johnson (Dallas, Texas) scored the game-winner in the second period, just his third career goal, to push Trinity into the championship game. Junior forward Tyler Whitney (Wakefield, Mass.) and senior captain Ethan Holdaway (Glastonbury, Conn.) also tallied scores for the Bantams while Morin played exceptional in goal once again, finishing with 31 saves.
"This team perseveres through all kinds of adversity because of these special guys in the room," said Greason after the semifinal victory. "It wasn't 80 degrees and sunny all year like we thought it would be. But the leadership in the locker room has allowed us to recover from some early losses. I can't say it enough, this is a special group."
Trinity fell to Norwich in the title game, 4-1, with Trinity's lone goal coming from Whitney on the power play. Despite, the final result, Coach Greason remained excited for what the team accomplished, especially the seniors.
"I can't say enough about this senior class," added Greason. "It's the greatest in the history of the program, both in terms of what they accomplished on the ice and who they are as human beings. I am proud of them and am going to miss working with them."
Trinity struggled to maintain consistency early in the regular-season, but finished strong, winning the final five games heading into the playoffs while outscoring its opponents by a staggering 29-7 mark.
A trio of Bantams earned post-season accolades after strong seasons on the ice. Feeney was named to 2016-17 United States College Hockey Online (USCHO.com) Division III Men's Ice Hockey National All-Rookie Team, while Orlando was selected for the New England Hockey Writers Division II/III New England All-Star Team, and Sabitsky and Orlando each received New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) All-Conference honors. Orlando also signed a three-day tryout contract with the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs of the Southern Professional Hockey Leage (SPHL) in April.
Orlando and Sabitsky both tallied 18 goals this winter, tied for the team-lead, while Whitney led the squad with 38 points on 13 goals and a team-best 25 assists. Orlando totaled 64 goals which is 6th all-time at Trinity, and 67 assists for 131 points (T7th at Trinity) in 114 games in his Bantam career. Ryan Cole finishes his career with 143 points after tallying 34 points this season, placing him fifth all-time in program history. Morin finished the season with 1,752 minutes between the pipes which shatters the previous program record of 1,553. His 739 saves is fifth most in a single season and his 1.77 goals allowed average breaks the record mark he previously set after the 2015-16 season. Trinity finished the year as the NESCAC's most prolific scoring team, topping the league in goals per game (3.97).
Ryan Cole, Orlando, Holdaway, Sam Johnson, junior Griffyn Martin (Southport, Conn.) and sophomores Blake DeLisle (Plano, Texas), Bryce Eviston (Vancouver, B.C.) and Nick Johnson (Dallas, Texas) earned NESCAC All-Academic distinction thanks to their hard work in the classroom. Senior T.J. Sherman (Chesterfield, Mo.) also represented the Bantams on the NESCAC All-Sportsmanship Team.
Sherman, Sam Johnson, Ryan Cole, Brandon Cole, Orlando, Holdaway, and captain Will Sleeper (Wellesley, Mass.) all concluded their Trinity hockey careers this winter having helped the team compile an impressive 86-23-5 record during their tenure. In four seasons together, they made four NESCAC Championship Tournament appearances, won two NESCAC Championships, made three NCAA Tournament appearances and appeared in two NCAA Tournament National Championship games, including in 2014-15 when they won the national title.