TROY, N.Y. — Russ Bartlett took the slowest shot of his life on Saturday evening, but it decided the championship of the 50th Rensselaer/HSBC Holiday Hockey Tournament.
A scrum in front of the net with just 31.7 seconds left in the third period saw the puck shot by Bartlett at about 1 mph, but it was enough to elude Northeastern goaltender Mike Gilhooly and give the St. Lawrence Saints the 4-3 victory.
The goal was set up as St. Lawrence kept the puck in the Northeastern end. A shot wound up kicking off of Gilhooly, and rebounds by Erik Anderson and Al Fyfe were saved, but with Gilhooly out of position, Bartlett moved in and scored the winner.
After one period of play it seemed as though the Huskies were going to run away with the championship. Sean MacDonald started the scoring for the Huskies in the first just 1:51 in, and then Mike Ryan got a tip in front of the net at the 11:41 mark to give the Huskies a 2-0 lead.
As the second period started, the Huskies had a chance to put the Saints away on the power play, but the Saints killed the penalty. Then, a long shot by Josh LeRoy came out to Blair Clarance, who had a bad angle, but nonetheless got off a hard backhander that beat Gilhooly top shelf to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Towards the end of the second period, Mike Gellard tied the game at two and then gave the Saints the lead shorthanded with just 20 seconds left in the period. Gellard took a bad pass, broke in alone on Gilhooly and put it between his legs.
“The first period was all Northeastern,” said Saint head coach Joe Marsh. “They had great jump and they came after us. I thought we needed something to get us going and we got a big penalty kill and then Clarance’s goal was huge. We came back and responded and got everyone going. It got everyone energized.
“Then we stuck around and did some good things. It was one of our best periods of the year and it was finished by Gellard at the end of the period and it was different after that. We got more proactive rather than reactive.”
In the third the Huskies would tie it when Mike Ryan came down the left wing and blistered a shot that beat Jeremy Symington.
As the third period wound down the Huskies had a golden opportunity when Trevor Reschny broke in alone on Symington but could not get the puck by him.
Less than two minutes later, Bartlett won it for the Saints.
“Big save,” said Marsh about Symington play on Reschny. “He played great and it was great to see. That’s been the big question mark with Gustafson leaving.
“It was a good character win in terms of us getting a good gut check.”
Northeastern coach Bruce Crowder thought his team let down after taking the early lead.
“We got off to the kiss of death — a 2-0 lead — and thought it was going to be easy here and we let the kids know about it, but we came out in the second period flat,” said Crowder. “They got three goals behind us and we battled back in the third, and then it was a strange goal for them to win it, but I don’t think we deserved the win. We didn’t play well enough for it.
“We had some glorious opportunities and we had a chance to end it before we got to overtime, but we’re a team that just keeps trying to make the next step. We hoped to win the championship and get a little momentum, but we’re right back to .500 again.”
The Huskies (7-7-3) will host UMass-Lowell on Thursday in Hockey East action while the Saints (5-7-3) will have next weekend off before coming back to the Capital District to face Union and Rensselaer.
“We’ve got a long way to go and hopefully that team you saw in the second period is going to be the team that puts the team you saw in the first period away,” said Marsh.