Hartford, Conn. - After 12:57 of overtime hockey, senior captain Ryan Pfeffer (Canton, Mass.) fired a wrist shot that snuck past Hamilton goalie Anthony Tirabassi (Niagra Falls, N.Y.) and into the back of the net as the Trinity College men's hockey team stormed the ice to celebrate a 2-1 overtime victory over the Continentals in the semifinals of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Championship Tournament at the Koeppel Center on Saturday evening.
Trinity, ranked No. 7 in the nation, improves to 17-3-5 on the year and moves on to tomorrow's championship game against Amherst College at 2 p.m. The Bantams and Mammoths will square off after Amherst outlasted Wesleyan University in double-overtime in the day's earlier semifinals. The Bantams have now won eight-straight games and have not lost in their last 15 as they look to capture their third NESCAC title in the last four seasons.
Just 14 seconds into the opening period, Trinity jumped ahead to a 1-0 lead. Sophomore Nicholas Polsinelli (Galloway, N.J.) sent a pass up ice to senior Mark Knowlton (Colorado Springs, Colo.). Knowlton rifled a wrist shot towards net that deflected off of the glove of Tirabassi and into the back of the net.
Hamilton had a good chance at the equalizer with just over 10 minutes to go in the period. With 10:47 showing, Sterling Bray (Marietta, Ga.) had a clean look at Trinity junior goalie Tedy Loughborough (Wellesley Hills, Mass.), firing a shot on net that Loughborough stoned cold. Bray got a shot off on the rebound but Loughborough once again shut the door, smothering the puck to end the threat.
The Bantams were whistled for a hooking penalty late in the period which gave the Continentals a man-up opportunity. Trinity's penalty kill unit did its job in front of Loughborough, who made a pair of clutch saves in succession during the two minute disadvantage, to keep the lead at 1-0 after one.
A Trinity penalty just before the period handed Hamilton a power play which rolled over into the second period. The Continentals took advantage of the opportunity when Jon Stickel (Pittsburgh, Pa.) re-directed a shot from Stephen Cochrane (Hingham, Mass.) into the back of the net to even the score at 1-1.
Hamilton was called for a hooking penalty at the 12:32 mark which gave the Bantams a skater advantage of their own, but Tirabassi and the Continental defense held strong to keep the game tied at 1-1. Both teams were called for concurrent penalties with under a minute in the period which made it 4-on-4 hockey to start the third period.
Nothing came from the two minutes of 4-on-4, but Trinity nearly took the lead just seconds after the penalties expired. Junior Taggart Corriveau (New Britain, Conn.) found himself 1-on-1 with Tirabassi, dragging the puck across the front of the crease for a shot, but Tirabassi stuck his left leg pad out and kicked the puck away from harm.
With 15:15 left, the Bantams were gifted another power play opportunity thanks to an interference call on Hamilton. After an errant Trinity pass in Hamilton's zone, Bray picked off the puck and raced down ice looking to find a short-handed goal. Bray fired a wrister on net but Loughborough came up with the save.
After a mad scramble in front of Trinity's net with less than two minutes left, Bray had a clean look at net with Loughborough scrambling to re-position after making a previous save. Bray fired a shot but Trinity senior Charlie Zuccarini (Shelton, Conn.) laid out in front of it to block it and allow the Bantams to regain possession.
Threatening in the attacking zone with under a minute to play, Hamilton was called for a tripping penalty which put the Bantams back on the power play. Trinity was not able to come up with the game-winner in regulation but entered the first overtime period with 1:27 left on the man-advantage.
The Bantams sent a handful of shots towards net at the beginning of overtime but both were blocked by Blayne Oliver (Blenheim, Ontario) as the visitors killed off the penalty successfully. Three minutes later, the Bantams nearly won it when first-year Lucas Michaud (South Portland, Maine) got a shot off on a rebound from a shot by Corriveau, but Tirabassi came up clutch with the back-to-back saves. Less than two minutes later, a streaking Jordi Jefferson (Wasaga Beach, Ontario) had a clear shooting lane on the other end of the ice and fired a one-timer toward goal, but Loughborough returned the favor and stoned the attempt.
Sophomore Michael Grande (West Chester, Pa.) nearly scored with eight minutes on the clock in the extra session as he tried to stuff the puck in net on a wrap-around from behind the goal, but the puck hit the pipe and bounced away. The rebound led to a skate out which resulted in Loughborough coming up big once again, saving an attempt off the stick of Jason Brochu (Saint Bruno de Montarville, Ontario).
Pfeffer connected on his third game-winner of the season with 7:03 showing on the clock in overtime. Trinity sophomore Dylan Healey (Goshen, N.Y.) won a faceoff in the Hamilton zone. Junior assistant captain Liam Feeney (Foxboro, Mass.) came up with it before giving it back to Healey who slipped a pass from near the point to Pfeffer, positioned at the opposite faceoff circle. Pfeffer faked a shot, allowing a Hamilton defender who slid in front of the would be shot to clear, before sending a low line drive off the leg pad of Tirabassi and across the goal-line for the win. Trinity stormed the ice to celebrate the victory as a near-capacity Koeppel Center erupted simultaneously.