All of the first round action was in the East on Saturday night, as four first-round games pitted all eight Eastern teams against each other with the hope of advancing to next Saturday’s quarterfinals. No surprise that two veteran teams played solid games to win at home but two newcomers in Hamilton and Endicott pulled off the upset as visitors and advanced to play again on the road next week.
Here are the wrap-ups from the first-round games on Saturday night.
Saturday, March 11
Hamilton at Oswego
Both teams were looking for a fresh start in the NCAA tournament following heartbreaking losses last week in conference championship games. The visitors were making their first NCAA appearance and got on the board first when senior Robbie Murden scored to give Hamilton a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes of play. The game was physical, and an Oswego penalty gave Murden another chance to cash in this time on a power play for a 2-0 advantage after two periods. The Lakers finally found a way to get a puck by Hamilton goalie Evan Buitenhuis in the third period when Chris MacMillan scored with assists from Shaun Hulshof and Kenny Neil, but that was all the offense the home team could muster against Buitenhuis. Jon Stickel scored an empty-net goal with just over a minute remaining for the final tally of the game and a 3-1 win for Hamilton. Oswego outshot Hamilton by a 35-29 margin, but Buitenhuis stopped 34 of 35 to earn the win and a quarterfinal date with Norwich next weekend.
Endicott at Hobart
The Gulls certainly didn’t act like a first-time NCAA tournament team as they raced to a 3-0 lead against Hobart on goals by Frank Spellman, Tommy Besinger, and Jason Kalinowski, but saw the Statesmen steal back momentum with a three-goal burst over a five-minute span to close out the second period tied a 3-3. Nick Bingaman started the Hobart rally, which was followed by goals by Bo Webster and Tyler Wolf less than a minute apart. The third period saw Kalinowski net his second of the game with assists from Logan Day and Cam Bleck at 10:50 to give the visitors the lead that they counted on goalie Kevin Aldridge to protect. The Gulls and Aldridge killed three consecutive penalties in the second half of the third period and ultimately held the Statesmen to an 0-for-5 night on the man advantage. Aldridge stopped all 16 shots he faced in the third period and 40 of 43 for the game in earning his 21st win of the season.
Plattsburgh at Trinity
The Cardinals have been the fast team out of the gates in their recent playoff success, but had the tables turned on them when Ayrton Valente took a penalty just 41 seconds into the opening period and Sean Orlando made the Cardinals pay with a power-play goal at the 1:16 mark. Orlando added his second of the night midway through the first period, again with an assist from Tyler Whitney, and Trinity had a lead it would not relinquish. Joe Drabin answered for the Cardinals in the second period where the Cardinals had some great opportunities, but could not get anything else past Alex Morin in goal for Trinity. The Cardinals went 0-4 on the power play while Trinity capitalized twice with the man advantage. Brandon Cole scored twice for the Bantams in the third period, including one on a power play and one into the empty net to seal the 4-1 win and quarterfinal matchup with Endicott next Saturday in Hartford. Morin finished with 26 saves while Brady Rouleau stopped 35 for Plattsburgh in the loss.
Salem State at Norwich
The Cadets scored early in the first period on a power-play goal by captain Tyler Piacentini, but that was the only goal in the first 40 minutes of play. The visiting Vikings held the advantage in play in the second period, especially in terms of scoring chances, but couldn’t get the puck behind Norwich goalie Braeden Ostepchuk. In the third period, Norwich broke the game open with a pair of goals. Christian Thompson took a beautiful drop pass at the top of the circle and rifled a slap shot five-hole on Salem State netminder Jason Pucciarelli. Just under six minutes later, Christian Baldillez picked off an attempted clearing pass by the Vikings defense in front of Pucciarelli and snapped a wrist shot glove side for a decisive 3-0 lead. The Vikings didn’t quit all night and with just 1:13 left in regulation, Casey Miller took a pass from Mackenzie Cook, cut across the slot, and roofed a backhand over Ostepchuk’s blocker to ruin the shutout bid. Ostepchuk finished the game with 22 saves while Pucciarelli stopped 26 of 29 for Salem State. With the 3-1 win, Norwich will stay at home and host Hamilton on Saturday night in quarterfinal action.
Robbie Murden, Hamilton: The senior forward scored a pair of goals, including the ultimate game-winner in Hamilton’s 3-1 upset win over Oswego.
Sean Orlando, Trinity: Like his NESCAC compatriot Murden, Orlando scored twice in the first period to give Trinity a lead they never let go of on their way to a 4-1 first round win over SUNYAC champion Plattsburgh.
Kevin Aldridge, Endicott: The Gulls netminder stopped 40 of 43 shots as Endicott upset host Hobart 4-3 in their first appearance in a NCAA tournament game.
So now we are down to eight teams, with a pair of quarterfinal games set for next Saturday night in both regions that will determine the contestants in this year’s Frozen Four.