RYE, N.Y. — Senior Nick Warriner threw his arms in the air and let out a scream. Tom Carroll pumped his fist furiously as he walked out on the ice with a grin from ear-to-ear. The New England College Pilgrims usually take a road victory in stride, but the team couldn’t contain themselves.
This one was worth celebrating.
For the first time in the program’s 35-year history, the Pilgrims continue to dance after a 4-2 victory over the Manhattanville Valiants in the 2005 NCAA Division III Quarterfinals.
“We wanted to focus on what we could do rather than change our style,” said Carroll, New England’s head coach. “We had a week to prepare and our guys did a great job of adjusting to the surroundings.”
Warriner’s hat trick and 38 saves by sophomore Scott Gray helped the Pilgrims advance to the Frozen Four with a pending showdown against the defending national champions, the Middlebury Panthers.
The last time New England advanced to the NCAA Tournament, 2001, the Pilgrims lost in in a two-game quarterfinal series. This appearance, however, has a little more magic.
“It’s huge for all of the guys who put forth the blood, sweat and tears the last 35 years,” Carroll said. “It’s a proud moment and I’m proud of our guys. They’ve been resilient throughout the season.”
New England began the campaign with four losses to open the season. Since then, the Pilgrims have won 18 of their last 25 games and 10 of their last 12.
However, the Pilgrims mustered only the No. 6 seed in the East Region, while Manhattanville tallied the top spot. That didn’t deter New England from playing its style of hockey.
“Obviously they are a great team and they deserved the ranking that they had because the record speaks for itself,” Warriner said. “We wanted to focus on our play. If you get caught up on who you are playing against and what they are going to do and trying to do too much, you stop doing what is natural for you.”
For Manhattanville, senior Wade Richardson and junior Ross Oldcorn tallied goals for the Valiants. Manhattanville junior Jay Chrapala made 29 stops as the Valiants finish the 2004-05 campaign at 21-4-1 overall.
“I didn’t think we had a enough guys who were on top of their game today,” said Manhattanville head coach Keith Levinthal. “You have to give New England College a lot of credit.”
The Valiants got on the board first when Richardson found a seam through the Pilgrims defense and tallied his 12th goal of the season to make it 1-0 Manhattanville. Junior Chad Van Diemen and sophomore Jordan Menzies assisted on the play.
In the second period, the Pilgrims bounced back with a power play goal by freshman Mike Carmody to tie the game at 1-1. For the freshman, it was his 20th goal of the season and 14th on the power play. Sophomore Robin Bjokman and junior Jeff VanDyke tallied the assists.
After a back-and-forth start to the third period, the Pilgrims’ Warriner scored an even-strength goal at the 8:02 mark of the third period to give New England a 2-1 lead.
“After the first 20 minutes, we settled down a bit and realized that if we sticked to our game plan, we’d be alright,” Warriner said.
Five minutes later, Oldcorn tallied his second goal of the season after chipping home a rebound shot to tie the game at 2-2. Juniors Billy Fouldsand Dan Law dished out the assists.
The Pilgrims answered right back less than two minutes later on a two-on-one breakaway by Warriner to give New England the lead for good. Freshman Evan Erdmann received a feed from junior Ben Corriveau and found a streaking Warriner to take the lead.
“The other two guys on the line forced them in the corner, but I picked up the puck just over the blue line, paused for a second, Chrapala went down there and luckily it went over his shoulder,” Warriner said.
After Manhattanville pulled Chrapala, Warriner found the empty net with four seconds remaining for his 10th goal of the season.
Special teams hindered the Valiants chances of advancing in the NCAA Tournament. Manhattanville went 0-for-8 on the power play, allowed a short-handed goal and a power play goal for the Pilgrims.
“The puck was bouncing a couple of times, but we didn’t bear down enough today,” said Manhattanville senior Jason Kenyon. “We just struggled out there today.”
This was the first appearance for Manhattanville in the NCAA Tournament.
“Our guys have played in the playoffs their whole life,” Levinthal said. “When you are not mentally sharp against a team that is extremely quick, you can look awfully slow at times.”
Now, the Pilgrims face the daunting task of knocking off Middlebury on Friday in the 7:00 p.m. semifinal against the host Panthers. Earlier this season, the Pilgrims fell to the Panthers, 4-3, at Middlebury.
“We had a good game with them before, but just like this team here, we have great respect for what they’ve done,” Carroll said. “It’s going to be a battle to say the least.”