The Memorial Auditorium in Utica was every D-III team’s ultimate destination for the end of March, and only now do we know the Frozen Four participants following Saturday night’s thrilling quarterfinals. There will be a new national champion, as there is only one repeat team, St. Norbert, among the four participants who will begin next weekend’s final pursuit for a national championship.
The two participants from the East are both storied and experienced programs that had to earn their way to Utica against two newcomers who showed they belong playing on a national stage. Here is the recap for two very exciting games in the East.
Cadets cash in on Continental mistakes
The biggest item missing on the resume for the Norwich seniors has been a trip to the Frozen Four. Following Saturday’s 6-2 win over Hamilton, they can check that box and get ready for their semifinal match-up with Adrian College on Friday.
Christian Thompson got the host Cadets on the board midway through the first period with a power-play goal that was the only real difference in an evenly played period where the shots favored Norwich slightly at 10-8.
Brian Rowland scored an unassisted goal at 12:16 for a 2-0 lead, but Conor Lamberti, with assists from Robbie Murden and Neil Conway, cut the deficit in half with a power-play goal for Hamilton at 14:49 and it was a 2-1 hockey game — until the final minute of the period.
They say that in hockey you never want to give up a goal in the first minute or final minute of a period, and on Saturday, Hamilton got stung twice in a 13-second span as the Cadets stunned the Continentals and Evan Buitenhuis with two quick goals to take a 4-1 lead into the locker room. At 19:03, Kevin Salvucci scored what proved to be the game-winning goal with an assist from Cody Smith, and just after the crowd quieted down a bit, Ian Williams took advantage of a turnover off a setup from William Pelletier and the Cadets had an insurmountable lead entering the third period.
Salvucci wasn’t done, as he scored his 20th goal of the season at the 14:34 mark with assists going to Williams and Pelletier to give the Cadets a 5-1 lead and all that was left was the icing on the cake of Anthony Flaherty’s empty-net goal that answered Jon Carkeek’s tally for Hamilton with just over three minutes remaining in the game.
Ty Reichenbach earned his 10th win of the season by recording 23 saves and the top-ranked Cadets advanced to the Frozen Four for the first time since 2012, when they lost to Oswego in the semifinals.
Bantams need two overtimes to overcome Aldridge and Gulls
It may be small consolation following a 2-1 double-overtime loss, but Endicott goalie Kevin Aldridge did everything he could to keep his team in their quarterfinal battle with Trinity on Saturday night. The Gulls netminder stopped 67 of 69 shots in the game, including 21 in the first period alone where it was obvious that both teams were going to get pucks on goal looking for a bounce, deflection, or rebound to get one past two of the best in the business at the D-III level.
The first period was scoreless, but both Aldridge and Trinity’s Alex Morin were very busy in a period that featured 36 total shots on goal. Early in the second period while playing short-handed, Endicott’s Josh Bowes gave the visitors a 1-0 lead that lasted until the 15:38 mark when Sean Orlando finally got one past Aldridge on a power play to tie the game 1-1.
The third period saw the hosts throw everything at Aldridge in a period where they held a 20-8 shot advantage, but could not score the decisive goal, leading to overtime. In the first overtime period, it was Morin’s turn to shine as Trinity had to kill off two minor penalties in the bonus hockey session. Morin had been sharp all night, matching Aldridge’s performance and was Trinity’s best penalty killer as they held the Gulls to 0-for-4 on the man advantage for the game.
In the second overtime period, Endicott came out with some energy, putting six shots on Morin early, but it was Trinity’s Anthony Sabitsky with an assist from Ryan Cole who finally put one past Aldridge to end the contest at the 4:15 mark after almost 85 minutes of action.
Trinity picked up its 20th win of the season and advances to the Frozen Four and a semifinal matchup with St. Norbert on Friday evening in Utica.
Kevin Salvucci, Norwich: Scored a pair of goals, including his 20th of the season in leading the offense in Norwich’s 6-2 win over Hamilton in the NCAA quarterfinals on Saturday.
Kevin Aldridge, Endicott: Stopped 67 of 69 shots in a Herculean effort for Endicott, which fell at Trinity by a 2-1 score in double overtime. Aldridge made 21 saves on 21 shots in the first period and 20 of 20 in the third period to force the game into overtime.
Alex Morin, Trinity: The goalie who often benchmarks himself against the guy down the other end was nothing less than spectacular in making 49 of 50 saves for Trinity in the 2-1 double-OT victory. Morin was especially good when the Bantams were a man down early in the first overtime and made a game-saving stop with just 19 seconds remaining in regulation.