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College Hockey:
Camels Cruise Over Beacons to Clinch Fifth Place in NESCAC Standings

— For seniors Jacob Cline and Chris Testa, their last game on home ice was supposed to be one remembered in a positive way. With a lot more to play for on the other bench, Conn College took control of the game early in the first period and never looked back on their way to routing the Beacons and clinching their highest seeding for the playoffs next week.

Junior Ryan Haworth got the Camels on the board at the 16:00 mark by becoming a one-man cycle behind the net. He deftly reversed direction behind the goal, shed his defensive coverage and quickly shoved the puck past a surprised Testa at the left post for the 1-0 lead.

Less than one minute later, Haworth again scored. Stationed at the top of the left circle, Haworth took the pass from center Trevor Bradley right off the faceoff and rifled a low shot past Testa on the glove side through a screen for a 2-0 lead that would be all the Camels would need.

The second period opened with more pressure from the Camels, who were clearly playing like something was at stake. Ryan Riffe setup Brett Moore in close and Testa made a nice blocker save, coming across the crease to deny the goal. Haworth again created an opportunity from behind the goal that was denied by the senior Beacon looking for his first collegiate win in his final game.

Following a Beacons’ turnover at their offensive blue line, freshman JJ McGregor held the puck on a two-on-one and fired a shot short side for a 3-0 lead for the Camels.

Minutes later, the Beacons applied some pressure on Camels’ goalie Greg Parker and finally scored on freshman Brian Marks’ shot from the point that beat Parker five-hole and got the Beacons on the board at 3-1.

Sophomore Ryan Riffe scored the first of his three goals on the afternoon on a power play at 11:35 in the period. Good puck movement created an open shot from the left point by Trevor Bradley that Riffe redirected past Testa on the glove side and the Camels were in cruise control at 4-1.

Less than two minutes later, a phenomenal one-on-one effort by Conn’s Brett Moore beat the Beacons’ defense and put the perfect pass on the stick of teammate Sean Driscoll, who pulled the puck across the crease from the out of position netminder to tuck it in the near corner for a 5-1 lead.

Another Haworth power move to the front of the net was stopped by Testa, but Marks picked up a hooking call on the play and the Camels’ Riffe cashed in quickly on the ensuing power play. At 15:28, Riffe batted a rebound out of the air through Testa’s pads from the top of the crease and the Camels were up by a 6-1 score. Testa was forced to leave the game, having taken a stick to the throat area, and was replaced by freshman Kevin Bendel to finish the period.

UMass did force the play at the end of the period following a Conn College penalty at 16:15, but goalie Greg Parker was equal to the task, stopping 14-of-15 shots in the period for the Camels to preserve the cushion.

The third period gave Riffe a chance to complete his hat trick when a non-icing call at the end of a Beacons’ power play resulted in Riffe receiving a great set-up pass in front from Jordan Gray. Riffe backhanded the feed just over Bendel’s pad at the near post for a 7-1 lead at 9:12 of the third period.

At 9:55 of the period, Ben Eischen scored through a screen from the point to make the score 8-1 and Conn coach Jim Ward took the opportunity to bring in Andrew Margolin in goal for the remainder of the game.

Senior Testa returned to the Beacons’ goal with just over seven minutes remaining and gave up one final goal on a two-on-one situation with JJ McGregor closing out the scoring for the Camels. Final shots saw the Beacons outshoot the Camels 31-28.

Beacons’ coach Peter Belisle stated, “We really wanted to play well today, especially for Chris, as all the guys in the locker room love and respect him. He has been through a lot here in his four years but stuck with it and has been a big part of this team and an exemplary teammate. I only wish we could have done more in front of him today. Now it’s a new season and whether we go to Norwich or Castleton, we have to be ready to play very good hockey if we want to extend our season. It has been a difficult year with some losses coming in close contests, but we played well at Norwich earlier this season and maybe that is something we can build on for next weekend.”

Across the hallway, Camels’ coach Jim Ward was hoping that a few of those goals today would have showed up last night at Babson.

“I don’t think we worked any harder today than last night, but sometimes you just get results when you throw it at the net and keep attacking. We had a lot of pucks find their way into the net today and hopefully we can continue that trend next week against Trinity. We are pleased with our position and holding on to the five seed and look forward to playing a good team next weekend.”

The playoffs and the second season start next week and after the final game of the regular season, one NESCAC school is moving forward playing pretty well while one ECAC East school is still struggling to find its game at the end of February.

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