Hartford, Conn. - With 0.1 seconds showing on the scoreboard, a slapshot off the stick of junior Taggart Corriveau (New Britain, Conn.) sailed into the back of the net, sending the Trinity College Bantams onto the ice as the Koeppel Center erupted in pandemonium to celebrate a 3-2 overtime victory over the Amherst College Mammoths in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Championship game on Sunday afternoon. Trinity captures its third conference crown in the last four seasons and fifth overall, improving to 19-3-5 on the year and securing the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The victory was Trinity's second overtime thriller in less than 24 hours as the Bantams needed an extra 12:57 on Saturday to knock off Hamilton in the semifinals. The goal was also Corriveau's second buzzer-beater in as many weeks after scoring the game-winner in the regular season finale on February 16 versus Wesleyan with four seconds remaining. Trinity, ranked No. 7 in the country, will await its NCAA Tournament pairing until Monday morning's selection show.
After seven minutes without incident in the opening period, Amherst was called for a tripping penalty which handed the Bantams the game's first power play opportunity. Despite Trinity's advantage, Amherst nearly scored a short-handed goal when Joey Lupo (St. Louis, Mo.) picked off an errant Trinity pass in the Bantam zone. Lupo flicked a backhand on net, directly in front of Trinity junior netminder Tedy Loughborough (Wellesley Hills, Mass.), but Loughborough stoned the attempt to keep the Mammoths off the board. Neither team found the back of the net in the opening period but a pair of roughing penalties in the final minute meant 4-on-4 hockey to begin the second period. Amherst nearly ended the scoreless game in the first minute on a shot by Greg Krisburg (Chappaqua, N.Y.) but the puck bounced off the top crossbar just before both teams returned to even strength.
With 8:23 left in the second period, Trinity had a prime scoring chance when junior Nick Fiorentino (Hartsdale, N.Y.) and junior assistant captain Liam Feeney (Foxboro, Mass.) skated down ice, 2-on-1. Fiorentino let a wrist shot fly from the left wing that missed the glove of Amherst goalie Michael Cullen (Ottawa, Ontario), but clanked off piping to keep it out of the back of the net.
Cullen came up big with just under a minute left in the period, falling on his back to save a shot off the stick of Trinity senior captain Ryan Pfeffer (Canton, Mass.). The save led to an faceoff in the Mammoth zone which was won by Bantam sophomore Dylan Healey (Goshen, N.Y.) that served as the catalyst to Trinity's first score. The puck slid directly to Fiorentino who clapped home a one-timer, thanks in part to a screen set in front of Cullen by Nicholas Polsinelli (Galloway, N.J.). The score stood at 1-0 as both team's entered the second intermission.
The third period brought plenty of action in the opening minutes as Amherst tied the game just 1:04 in, only for the Bantams to take back the lead seconds later. Jack FItzgerald (Guilford, Conn.) scored for the Mammoths off a rebound from a shot by Pieter von Steinbergs (Minnetonka, Minn.). Trinity won the ensuing faceoff which led to Polsinelli potting Trinity's second goal of the game off assists from Healey and Pfeffer.
With 10:11 left to go, Amherst earned a power play chance after Trinity was whistled for a cross-check. Trinity's penalty kill unit did a brilliant job to kill off the penalty, only allowing Amherst a single shot which missed everything and bounced off the back glass.
The Mammoths found their second equalizer of the afternoon at the 13:01 mark to make it a 2-2 game late in the period. Sean Wrenn (Charlestown, Mass.) cleaned up a loose puck in front of the net, scoring his ninth goal of the season off assists from Max Roche (Chicago, Ill.) and von Steinbergs. Both sides ramped up the intensity in the final minutes of regulation but neither came up with a game-winner as the game headed to overtime, the third of its kind this weekend.
Both teams put a flurry of shots on net through the first ten minutes of overtime but both Cullen and Loughborough did their respective jobs to keep everything in front of them. The Bantams had a handful of passes to the slot that looked promising near the 12:00 mark but none connected with anyone as things remained even with six minutes left. With 5:46 showing on the board, Nick Bondra (Annapolis, Md.) raced down ice with the puck and beat Trinity's back line. Bondra tried to stuff the puck past Loughborough for the game-winner, but Trinity's junior goalie smothered the attempt to keep things deadlocked for the time-being.
Trinity controlled the puck in Amherst's zone with ten seconds left and counting as it looked like a second overtime would be needed to decide the winner. That was, before Corriveau connected on his one-timer to lift the Bantams to victory. First-year Lucas Michaud (South Portland, Maine) dug the puck out of the corner with four seconds left, made himself enough room to send a backhanded pass to Corriveau, positioned near the slot. Corriveau's only chance at beating the buzzer was to fire a one-timer towards the net, which he did. The puck crossed the goal-line as the clock changed from 0.1 to 0.0 as Trinity's bench stormed the ice to celebrate. After a brief discussion by the referees, it was ruled that the goal counted, sealing the championship for Trinity in front of the home faithful in Hartford.
"We have a lot of heart in that locker room, top to bottom," said Corriveau after the game. "It's a blessing to be able to go back on Tuesday and still be with this group."