The Hobart Statesmen (20-6-2) defeated the Nichols Bisons (25-4) by a score of 3-0 in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Tonightâ€™s game marked the first time that Hobart has hosted an NCAA tournament game, and the second NCAA tournament victory in Statesmen history.
â€œIt is kind of a monkey off the back in a few ways,â€ said Hobart coach Mark Taylor. â€œWe are still playing a little tight, a little bit of not really ourselves. It was important to get that win.â€
Ryan Adler and Gregory Alberti both tallied in the second period to build Hobartâ€™s commanding lead. Nichols, playing an up tempo physical style, tried to come back but were unable to get the puck past Statesmen netminder Keith Longo. With the win, the senior Longo set a school record for saves in a career with 817, and now owns every school goaltending record.
Both teams started the game with a rush and the fans saw great up-tempo action. But neither team generated many scoring opportunities off the end to end action until the second half of the first period when each team got a pair of power plays.
â€œAttack has been our mentality all season long,â€ said Nichols coach Lou Izzi. â€œWe are an aggressive team and like to attack. We felt that we had to try and generate pressure deep in their zone, get the puck to the net. We couldnâ€™t sit back on them. We knew coming in that they were going to be physical. We had to pressure them and generate chances. We expected to be hit. They are a heck of a hockey club.â€
Hobart got a big jump out of its power plays, generating a number of grade A scoring opportunities. The most dramatic of the bunch came at 15:09 when Hobartâ€™s Aleksey Koval found the puck on his stick during a scramble just outside the crease. Nichols goaltender Jacob Rinn was down and out, but Bison forward Eric Cremer lunged across the crease to bat the puck harmlessly to the corner.
â€œNichols did some good things that didnâ€™t let us really get wheeling,â€ said Taylor. â€œThey didnâ€™t over extend themselves.â€
Hobartâ€™s Thomas Capalbo clanged a drive from the slot off the slot at 18:17, again on the power play, but neither team could get one past the goaltenders and the period ended 0-0 on the scoreboard.
Hobart out shot Nichols 17-6 in the first period, mainly thanks to the offense the Statesmen generated during their last two power plays.
â€œParticularly early in the first period, Jacob Rinn was tremendous,â€ said Izzi. â€œHe made some fantastic saves. He got beat on a couple of shots that he probably could have had. For the most part, he had an outstanding save. For the second half of the season, since he has been with us, he has given us the big save when we needed it the most and he did that again tonight.â€
In the game, Rinn made 34 saves, a career high for the freshman netminder.
Both teams had a bevy of scoring chances in the second period, but it was Hobart that converted twice to take a commanding 2-0 lead.
The Statesmenâ€™s first goal came at 8:17 when Ryan Adler buried a one timer from the left faceoff dot. Jason Merritt setup the play holding the puck along the back boards, when he spotted Adler pinching in from the left point. Adlerâ€™s shot went through a sea of legs and through Rinnâ€™s five-hole for the goal.
Hobart struck again at 17:43, this time on a pair of great individual plays.
Daniel Organ carried the puck out of the Statesmen zone and dished it off to Gregory Alberti at the far blue line right before Organ got crushed by a massive check. Alberti collected the puck, skated in to the zone and let loose a hard low wrist shot that evaded Rinn and went into the back of the net. The lone Nichols defender that was back was slow to get over to cover and that gave Alberti the room he needed to post Hobart to a 2-0 lead.
Nichols had a number of great scoring opportunities of its own throughout the quickly paced second period. But the Bisons couldnâ€™t get the puck past Hobart goaltender Keith Longo, despite out shooting the Statesmen 18-10.
Hobart added to its lead 8:21 into the third period when Bryant Harris launched a rocket from the left point that found the back of the net to extend the Statesmen lead to 3-0.
Nichols threw everything it had at the Hobart net but couldnâ€™t get the puck past Statesmen goaltender Longo.
Tonightâ€™s game was the first appearance in the NCAA tournament for the Nichols hockey team, and only the second appearance in the NCAAâ€™s for any sport at the school. Nichols earned they way into the tournament by winning the ECAC Northeast title.
â€œThis is incredible for us,â€ said Izzi. â€œIt is only the second time in the history of Nichols athletics to make it to the NCAAâ€™s. Weâ€™ve won 45 games in two years. To get to the NCAA tournament speaks volumes to how far weâ€™ve come. It is another big step for us in our development.â€
Hobart will face off with Amherst, who defeated Babson 4-1, on Saturday.