Williamstown, Mass. – The #2 Trinity college men’s ice hockey program gained a lead early in the first period, but in a high-scoring contest, fell in the 2019-20 NESCAC Championship to Wesleyan 7-2. The Bantams (19-7-1) outshot the Cardinals 40-27 on the afternoon, but seven Wesleyan goals in the final 40 minutes proved to be the difference.
Trinity reached the NESCAC Championship for the fifth consecutive season, coming up short for the first time since 2017-18 and becoming the runner-up for the fourth time in program history. Wesleyan played as the lower seed in every game of the NESCAC Tournament, knocking off #4 Middlebury and #1 Williams before taking down the Bantams.
Trinity hit the ice with the same level of intensity that it left from Saturday’s semifinal win. In a back-and-forth start to the first, the Bantams rifled off four straight shots before the Cardinals matched, forcing sophomore netminder Jonah Capriotti (Mount Hope, Ontario) to glove down a handful of great shots.
After the brief Wesleyan rush, Trinity exploded for six straight shots before lighting the lamp, opening the scoring at 10:52. Ensuing a faceoff win, senior Adam Anderson (Lino Lakes, Minn.) found classmate Liam Feeney (Foxboro, Mass.) at the top of the point. Feeney clapped it in, seeing a great save from Cardinal netminder Tim Sestak; the rebound kicked straight to first-year Riley Prattson (Tolland, Conn.) whose one-timer gave Trinity a 1-0 lead.
Trinity continued to pepper shots on net, owning both possession and shot totals despite two Wesleyan power plays through the first 30 minutes. Despite being in command, Wesleyan responded with a goal just before the midway point of the second period. Cardinal forward Colin Cobb wrapped around the back of the net and tried to center a pass; the puck tipped up into the air off a Trinity stick, and before it fell to the ice, Spencer Fox was there to knock it out of the air and in, tying the game at 1-1.
With 2:50 left in the second, the lead changed for the first time. Sestak stopped a heavy charge from Trinity before Wesleyan countered. Leading a two-on-one, Walker Harris snapped a shot on net; Capriotti made the initial save, but Jordan Rose was there to sneak home the rebound to take the lead.
The Cardinals scored once again before the end of the period, making it 3-1 after 40 minutes. After a hard hit through the neutral zone, Wesleyan broke out in numbers once again; this time, it was Tyler Levine that carried the puck through the zone untouched, making a stellar move around Capriotti before backhanding home the team’s third goal.
It took just nine seconds into the third period for Wesleyan to score its fourth goal of the game, digging the hole even deeper for the Bantams. After winning the opening faceoff, Harris led a two-on-one, feeding Levine for his second goal of the game.
The Bantam wouldn’t go down without a fight, cutting the lead in half minutes later during a four-on-four. Junior Michael Grande (West Chester, Pa.) received a pass from classmate Timothy Weinstein (Norwood, Mass.) at the top of the point; he collected himself before wristing a beauty that picked the top-right corner, making it 4-2.
Just 60 seconds later, Wesleyan regained its three-goal lead after a fantastic move from Michael Kerbrat. Dancing around his defender and into the zone, Kerbrat faked the short side shot before wrapping around the net and firing a shot into the top of the net, making it 5-2 with 15 minutes remaining.
The Bantams pulled Capriotti with three minutes left, seeing a handful of great opportunities before the Cardinals scored two empty-netters; Quincy Gregg and Walker Harris both got credit for the goals, giving Wesleyan its first NESCAC Championship.
The Bantams will tune in to the NCAA Division III Men’s Ice Hockey selection show Monday at 10:30 a.m., awaiting the possibility of an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.