BOSTON — On a night when Babson honored members from its past ECAC and NCAA championship teams, it was Norwich that showed it could play a tight playoff style game and skated off with a hard-fought 1-0 win at Frozen Fenway.
The game was dominated by great goaltending and a fast pace, but not much was getting by the two goaltenders.
Norwich came out flying early in the period and generated several good scoring chances, but Babson goalie Jamie Murray was up to the task of holding the Cadets at bay.
Babson finally got their legs going about midway through the period and challenged Norwich’s starting goalie, Chris Czarnota, to be on his game.
Despite playing just one period this season for Norwich, Czarnota earned the start after a great week of practice and being the local Boston boy for the game at Fenway and came up with the best save of the period by robbing Nik Tasiopouolos, who had split the defense and walked into the low slot for a great scoring chance.
At 18:43, Norwich’s Austin Surowiec took a minor penalty for elbowing and Babson had a couple of chances that were stopped by Czarnota before the period ended.
Norwich built up an early 7-2 shot lead in the period, but Babson carried the play late and shots finished at 10-7 for the Cadets.
If the first period saw Norwich getting off to a quick start, then the second was reversed as Babson used their remaining power-play time to establish its skating game and had several good scoring chances.
Forward Jon Mleczko had three chances at the post that were all turned away by Czarnota to keep the game scoreless.
Norwich started getting its game in gear about midway through the period and again it was Murray’s turn to stand tall in the goal.
Norwich’s top line of Travis Janke, Shane Gorman and Chris Duszynski had a flurry of shots from the low slot, but Murray was up to the task and controlled the final rebound bid for a faceoff.
There was just one penalty to the Cadets at 12:51 for elbowing to freshman William Pelletier, but the power play was derailed by an aggressive Norwich penalty kill.
Norwich’s late attacks gave them the shot advantage for the period at 11-9 and overall 21-16 for the two period total.
The third period mirrored the first two with one team jumping out quickly. The Cadets had early chances, but again, Murray was not to be beaten.
At just over the four-minute mark, a dump-in from neutral ice by the Beavers glanced off Czarnota, but fortunately for the Cadets, the puck struck iron and the puck was cleared to safety by the surprised netminder.
Norwich’s best chance came at the eight-minute mark when forward Dean Niezgoda faked Murray at the near post and attempted a wrap around after speeding behind the net. Murray dove back to his right and made a great stop at the post with he paddle of his stick.
Finally at 10:11, Gorman scored from the slot on a juicy rebound left by Murray off a shot from the point by Ryan Whitell in transition. Whitell joined the offensive rush, creating an odd-man rush that Gorman finished off the play driving down the left side when the rebound came right to him in the slot. It was Gorman’s sixth of the year and gave the Cadets a 1-0 lead.
With just over a minute remaining, the Beavers pulled Murray for the extra attacker, but could get the puck into the offensive zone.
“It was a great game with great goaltending and flow,” stated Norwich coach Mike McShane. “There weren’t a lot of whistles and both teams had some real good opportunities. We just took advantage of that rebound in the third period and it was enough. It has been a great event and getting the win really makes it special.”
For Babson coach Jamie Rice, there were many of the same sentiments on the action-packed game between the rivals.
“It was a great game and we are disappointed that we leave here with the loss,” noted Rice. “It was a great event for the school and our alums. Even our president was here tonight, so it shows the draw this game had for our school and our program. We really wanted the win, but [Norwich is] a very good team, well coached and they made the play to score the goal that made the difference. We won’t dwell on it. The kids have been good about that and we will be ready to play St. Mike’s tomorrow night.”
The road trip doesn’t get easier for the victors as they face the ranked Beacons of Massachusetts-Boston as part of a stretch that finds Norwich playing three ranked teams and five games in 10 days.