Championship weekend wrap-up in college hockey, D-III East: March 9, 2020

Wesleyan’s Tim Sestak stopped 78 of 82 shots and added an assist in leading the Cardinals to their first ever NESCAC championship with upset wins over Williams and Trinity (Photo by Jonas Powell)

As expected, championship weekend had a bit of everything including a big upset, an extension of an incredible shutout streak, and home favorites closing out their title dreams with wins in front of their faithful fans. Auto-bids have been claimed and now teams that didn’t win their league are anxiously awaiting the NCAA tournament announcements on Monday morning to see if their overall body of work in the season was good enough to be invited to the “big dance.”

Here is the wrap-up for championship weekend in the East:

Endicott hosted upset-minded Wentworth and for two periods, Connor Carbo and the Leopards held the home team to a 0-0 score despite being outshot by a 34-20 margin. With 12:40 gone in the third period, Eric Johansson scored to give the Gulls a 1-0 lead that was stretched to two when Jake Simon added an empty-net goal for the final 2-0 score. Conor O’Brien outdueled Carbo to earn the shutout win with 31 saves for Endicott. Carbo finished the game stopping 47 of 48 shots from the Gulls as the No. 6 seed Leopards fell just short of completing the playoff sweep of the top three teams from the CCC.

With the win, Endicott becomes the first team in the CCC to earn a bye and win the conference title.

The semifinal round took place on Tuesday night setting up Saturday’s championship game. Massachusetts-Dartmouth traveled to Fitchburg State and grounded the Falcons with a 4-0 win. Steven Leonard scored two goals to pace the offense while goaltender Daniel Davidson made 41 saves to earn the big shutout and road win for the Corsairs. Dillon Radin and Patrick Wrenn scored the other goals for UMD.

No. 1 seed Plymouth State had a much tighter game with Westfield State as the Panthers needed Jake Gerbner’s empty-net goal in the final seconds to earn a hard fought 4-2 win over the Owls. Forward Mike McPherson scored a pair of goals that contributed to a 3-1 lead early in the second period for PSU. Westfield State’s Danny Ferri closed that gap to just a goal at 3-2 but the Owls could not solve goaltender Andreas Pettersson again over the final 24 minutes of play. Pettersson finished with 24 saves in the win.

In Saturday’s championship game, tournament MVP Myles Abbate and JR Barone each had three-point games as the Panthers broke open a 1-1 game with goals from Viktor Bergstrom, Abbate and Barone to take control of the game with a 4-1 lead. A pair of shorthanded empty-net goals sandwiched around a Corsair power play goal from Michael Perrone provided the final scoring in a 6-2 Panther win. The win gives Plymouth State back-to-back MASCAC championships.

Stonehill hosted Franklin Pierce for the NE-10 conference title and earned their third NE-10 title in program history with a 3-1 win over the Ravens.

After a scoreless first period, Charles Page and Cameron Wright scored even-strength goals for the Skyhawks to give them a 2-0 lead after two periods of play. In the third period, Conor Foley cut the deficit to just a goal midway through the period but that is the only goal netminder Matthew Schoen would surrender. Zachary Frament scored into an empty-net for the final tally of the game with just 41 seconds remaining in the third period. Schoen, who earned tournament MVP honors, stopped 46 of 47 shots as the Ravens held a 47-41 shot advantage in the game.

Hobart traveled to Norwich for the NEHC championship game and the Statesmen were going to have to do something no Norwich opponent had done in their prior eight games if they were going to win – they needed to score a goal.

Norwich and senior goaltender Tom Aubrun extended their incredible shutout streak to nine straight games and Aubrun captured his 13th shutout for the season eclipsing the prior D-III record of 12 established just last season by Geneseo’s Devin McDonald. Aubrun and company kept the Statesmen off the scoresheet by stopping all 29 shots he faced while Taeron Lewis (one goal) and Jordan Hall (two goals) provided all of the offense for the Cadets in the 3-0 win.

Norwich captured the auto-bid for the NCAA tournament while Hobart will await the tournament announcement for news on an at-large bid.

Williams earned being the host for championship weekend but found semifinal opponent Wesleyan to be a very inhospitable guest. The Cardinals jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a pair of goals from Tyler Kobryn but Williams was not going to go out without a fight. With just under five minutes remaining in the third period Bobby Beniers cut the lead in half for the Ephs but there was yet more drama to come. With the goaltender pulled for the extra attacker, Mac Corso scored for Williams to tie the game with just 31 seconds remaining in regulation time. The 2-2 tie sent the game to overtime were Wesleyan’s Jake Lachance scored his first collegiate goal to give the Cardinals the 3-2 win despite being outshot by a 42-19 margin. Goaltender Tim Sestak made 40 saves in the win for Wesleyan.

In the other semifinal, Trinity also needed some dramatics to eliminate Hamilton by a 3-2 score. Defenseman Liam Feeney opened the scoring for the Bantams who had a 2-1 lead after two periods of play. Jordi Jefferson tied the game for the Continentals in the third period but Feeney was the hero for Trinity when he scored with just 16 seconds remaining in regulation to give Trinity a chance to repeat as NESCAC champions.

Sunday’s final saw Trinity jump out to a 1-0 lead on Riley Prattson’s goal but the Cardinals quickly rallied back in the second period. Spencer Fox, Jordan Rose and Tyler Levine scored three unanswered goals for Wesleyan in the second period and the Cardinals built on that momentum in the final period by outscoring Trinity 4-1 for a 7-2 rout. Walker Harris had a goal and three assists for the Cardinals while Sestak was again outstanding making 38 saves on 40 Bantam shots.

The win gave Wesleyan their first ever NESCAC men’s hockey championship and the Cardinals will wait to see where they fit in the NCAA bracket on Monday.

Geneseo had already won their semifinal game last weekend but were awaiting the outcome of Tuesday’s re-scheduled matchup between Oswego and Plattsburgh. The Lakers took care of business against the Cardinals as Travis Broughman scored two goals and Michael Gillespie added three assists to help Oswego take a 4-0 lead into the third period. Andrew Pizzo’s third period, power play goal ruined Steven Kozikoski’s shutout bid for the Lakers who advanced to the SUNYAC championship game with a 4-1 win.

On Saturday the much anticipated battle between the league’s top two teams lived up the playoff hype as the Lakers were determined to stop the Knights’ pursuit of a conference “three-peat.” Geneseo’s Matthew Doran and Oswego’s Josh Zizek exchanged first period goals before Brendan Miller and David Szmyd gave Geneseo a 3-1 lead after two periods of play. Oswego had several point blank chances against goaltender Aaron MacKay, but the senior goalie made a number of superb saves to hold off the Lakers. Carson Kelley added an empty-net goal for the final tally in the 4-1 win that saw MacKay named tournament MVP for the Knights.

Geneseo moved to 22-3-2 on the season and is looking to move beyond last season’s semifinal game at the Frozen Four in the NCAA tournament.

The UCHC also saw a pairing of the top two seeds in the two-game championship series as No. 2 Wilkes traveled to face No. 1 Utica. The Pioneers lost the title to Manhattanville last season in the mini-game necessitated by a split of the two-game series. They were looking to avoid the need for a similar situation this season against the Colonels.

On Friday, Dante Zapata scored two first period goals and the Pioneers were off and running on the way to a 4-0 win. John Moncovich and Brandon Osmundson also added goals and Gianluca Baggetta stopped all 20 shots he faced to earn the shutout win.

On Saturday it was Zapata again who got the Pioneers on the board with a shorthanded goal late in the first period. Utica extended the lead to 3-1 after the second period and cruised to a 6-2 win that secured the UCHC title and NCAA auto-bid. John Moncovich and Conor Landrigan each chipped in with a goal and an assist while defenseman Justin Allen picked up three assists in the win.

The win was the 25th of the season for Utica who enters the NCAA tournament with a 25-2-2 record.

Three Biscuits

Tom Aubrun – Norwich – extended his consecutive shutout streak to nine games by stopping 29 shots in a 3-0 win over Hobart in the NEHC championship game. The shutout was also Aubrun’s 13th on the season setting a new D-III record for a single season.

Matthew Schoen – Stonehill – stopped 46 of 47 shots in backstopping Stonehill to the NE-10 conference championship with a 3-1 win over Franklin Pierce.

Jake Lachance – Wesleyan – scored the overtime winner against Williams to advance the Cardinals to their first ever NESCAC championship game. The goal was a collegiate first for Lachance.

Monday will determine the field for the NCAA tournament with four at-large teams joining the conference champions in pursuit of the D-III national championship.