East wrap: March 18

The Frozen Four field is now set. It will be something old and familiar from the West, while two new teams appear in their first-ever national tournament final weekend pursuit for the title. St. Norbert and Wisconsin-Stevens Point punched their tickets in quarterfinal wins on Saturday, while in the East, Salve Regina avenged their conference tournament loss to Nichols and Colby won in dramatic fashion at Geneseo. Here are the highlights from the two quarterfinals in the East.

Colby at Geneseo
The coaches say to give it your all for the full 60 minutes. Well, Colby’s Justin Grillo did exactly that as he scored the game-winning goal with just 1.6 seconds on the clock to stun the home crowd at Geneseo and send the Mules to their first-ever Frozen Four.

After a scoreless, evenly played first period, Colby opened the scoring with Grillo and Michael Rudolf assisting on Thomas Stahlhuth’s tally just 40 seconds into the second period. Again, the period was evenly played, with both Sean Lawrence and Devin MacDonald playing well in goal for their respective teams.

The Knights came out with some desperation in their game in the third period, and Lawrence showed why he has been a big factor in the Mules postseason success. The Knights outshot Colby, 18-4, over the final 20 minutes, but Lawrence was up the task, surrendering only Arthur Gordon’s power-play goal with the Mules down two men at the eight-minute mark. Enter Grillo to provide the dramatic finish that makes for great playoff history. With helpers from Stahlhuth and Cam MacDonald, Grillo beat Geneseo’s MacDonald and the buzzer to give the Mules the upset win and a trip to Lake Placid next weekend. Lawrence finished with 38 saves on 39 shots to earn the win in goal.

Nichols at Salve Regina
Both teams were aspiring to be the first-ever from their conference to participate in a Frozen Four, and the hosts from Salve Regina perhaps had a bit more motivation in thinking about playing the team that led to their three-week layoff following a semifinal loss to Nichols in the CCC tournament semifinal.

Unlike that game three weeks ago, Salve Regina was the team that broke out early with John MacLean scoring just 32 seconds into the game on a deflected shot past the Bison’s Colin Brennan. The game would prove to be a see-saw affair as three times Salve Regina took one-goal leads, only to see Nichols answer each time. Vincent Crivello answered for Nichols before Erik Udahl and Matthew Menta exchanged goals just 16 seconds apart for a 2-2 score after the first period.

Salve Regina’s Frankie Sullivan scored the only goal of the second period, setting up a great third period. Again, Nichols answered the Seahawks with a power-play goal from Filip Virgili, but the Seahawks had the final answer. Sullivan scored his second of the night with an assist from Danny Eruzione, his third of the game, for the deciding goal and a 4-3 win. Goalie Blake Wojtala out-dueled Colin Brennan, making 23 saves, and Salve Regina advanced to their first Frozen Four appearance and first-ever for the Commonwealth Coast Conference.

Three Biscuits
Justin Grillo, Colby: Grillo assisted on the Mules’ opening goal before scoring the game-winner with just 1.6 seconds remaining in regulation to send Colby to their first-ever Frozen Four.
Sean Lawrence, Colby: Lawrence backstopped the Mules to a first-round win, stopping 38 of 39 shots in a 2-1 win over Geneseo on the road.
Danny Eruzione, Salve Regina: The Seahawks’ freshman forward recorded three assists, including setting up the game-winning goal for Salve Regina in their 4-3 win over Nichols.

So, the teams will now be making their arrangements to get to Lake Placid, New York, next weekend. Two new teams from the East will be facing experienced Frozen Four proven rosters in Friday’s semifinals. Salve Regina will play Wisconsin–Stevens Point, while Colby looks to continue their postseason road success while facing the nation’s No. 1 team in St. Norbert. More great hockey yet to play for one more weekend on the rink where dreams and miracles have a history.