ELMIRA, N.Y. — Speed kills. Elmira had it. Trinity suffered.
The Elmira Soaring Eagles, in front of a large home crowd, crushed the Trinity Bantams 5-1 in the NCAA quarterfinals. The win sends Elmira to Lake Placid and their seventh national semifinal appearance.
“A great effort by our guys,” Elmira coach Tim Ceglarski said. “I thought the biggest difference was how we moved the puck tonight. You can pass the puck around to a lot of people when you are passing it well. I thought our speed was very good. I thought our puck possession and puck movement was the key to the game.”
Elmira used superior speed and size to attack Trinity time and time again, and the Bantams were unable to do anything about it.
“We’ve seen teams with similar type speed, but when you add some size and their skill to their top unit to that, they’re very difficult to contain,” Trinity coach David Cataruzolo said. “Although the puck was in our zone quite a bit, we need to protect the middle of our zone a little bit better. They were opportunistic. They played a very solid hockey game from their end out.”
Casey Tuttle got the win with 27 saves.
Elmira controlled play early on leading to a dominating first period. The Soaring Eagles’ first goal came after an icing call at 5:47. Michael Richard won the faceoff to the left of Trinity’s goaltender right back to Karl Linden, who shot it through the crowd and past Wesley Vesprini.
That goal seemed to give Elmira even more energy, as they started to swarm around the Bantams’ net, helped by a few power plays. One of those resulted in their second score.
First, Elmira controlled a four-on-four as if it was a power play. When they did get the man-advantage, Trinity stood no chance during the four-on-three with all the open ice. Nic Dumoulin ended up with the puck in the high slot area slightly to the right after it deflected off a few players. Dumoulin was unmarked with nobody in front of him. He settled the puck, wound up as far as he could, and blasted a rocket over the near shoulder of a helpless Vesprini at 11:57.
The final nail in the coffin came before the opening period was even over at 16:02. Rusty Masters at the left faceoff circle scored a weak goal, shooting it through Vesprini’s five-hole with nobody in the way to block Vesprini’s view.
“I thought our guys really came out to play in the first period,” Ceglarski said.
“The first time in a while we came out a little tight,” Cataruzolo said. “We gave them some power play opportunities early. Against a team with that kind of skill and poise, especially on defense, you have to keep things pretty close to the vest. To try to climb back for a 3-0 deficit in the first is a challenge against anybody, especially against a team like them.”
“They shot through a lot of traffic,” Vesprini said. “That made it difficult to see some of the pucks. If I stopped the first puck, who knows, it could have been a different ball game,”
The best chance Trinity had would have tied the game. Adam Houli had the puck at the doorstep unmarked. However, he was unable to control it for a shot, and Tuttle poke checked it away.
Elmira nearly made it 4-0 early in the second when they hit the post at the end of yet another power play.
Afterwards, the penalty situation started to reverse itself, as Trinity got the next two power plays. The Bantams put heavy pressure on Elmira, but Tuttle was equal to the task, preserving the shutout.
Once the teams got back to full strength, Elmira’s speed took over once again. Derrick Ryan made it 4-0 on the quintessential score of the game. Entering the zone on a semi-breakaway down the right side, his speed carried him past the lone defender, he cut across the net, and with Vesprini unable to move as quickly, Ryan easily deposited the puck into the net with a soft backhander at 10:36.
“Just off a turnover,” Ryan said. “Schrank made a great chip off the boards, and I was able pick it up and carry through with some speed and manage to beat the goalie and had the far side open and tucked it in.”
Another power play for Elmira meant another goal at 16:33 to make it 5-0. The Soaring Eagles completely controlled the puck with constant movement as Trinity simply stood around. Finally, McKenna alone in front was fed the puck and easily converted the one-timer.
Trinity broke the shutout when Naoto Hamashima snuck one in that bounced around and squeezed through Tuttle.
“I didn’t think whether I should pass or anything,” Hamashima said. “I just wanted to do something.”
“Defensive breakdown on our part,” Tuttle said. “Just came out of the corner, hit off a player’s skate, and I kind of felt it go through.”
Before that goal, it appeared Trinity had broken the shutout earlier in the period. A Houli backhand sailed over the far shoulder of Tuttle and appeared to sneak underneath the upper corner. However, the goal light never went on, and play continued as the refs never signaled a goal, saying later it did not cross the line.
Linden started and ended the scoring with a power play tally at 16:17. Linden received a pass at the right faceoff circle, patiently waited for the defender to slide down to block the shot and lift it over him. It sailed high over the arm of the goalie and inside the near post.
Elmira went three-for-eight with the man advantage.
“Coach [Dean] Jackson and coach [Greg] Moore run that power play, and I thought they did a fantastic job this week getting back to the basics,” Ceglarski said. “Having watched the video tape of Trinity, it looked like they were pretty passive on their penalty kill, and when you have a team that can move the puck pretty well and passive penalty killers, it makes for a lot of movement, and we were able to capitalize on it tonight.”
Trinity finishes their season at 16-11-2 after playing four games in seven days.
“I think it’s very important to get this point,” Cataruzolo said. “You realize as a group you will be able to reflect at some point and realize how hard it is to get to this point. It’s been a very special run for us. It’s a great experience for our younger guys. I’m very proud of this group.”
Elmira (20-3-5) will face a longtime rival, Plattsburgh in the semifinals at Lake Placid next Saturday.
“We’re going to savor this one for the next 24 hours,” Ceglarski said. “We beat Plattsburgh earlier in the year, but I said since the day we played them and all year long, they are the best team that I’ve seen this year.”