Grillo’s goal with 1.6 seconds left sends Colby past Geneseo in NCAA quarterfinals

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GENESEO, N.Y. — It was on everyone’s mind.

“I was thinking about overtime, no doubt,” Colby coach Blaise MacDonald said. “We were thinking what do we need to do better to reestablish our game. That’s where my mind was.”

Instead, Justin Grillo’s mind was scoring with 1.6 seconds left in regulation to give Colby a 2-1 victory over Geneseo in the NCAA Division III quarterfinal round.

The initial shot from Thomas Stahlhuth never made its way though. However, it came back out to the high slot where Grillo was waiting. He took the shot through a crowd of people, which even Grillo couldn’t see through to know it went in.

“There was a lot of bodies in front of me,” Grillo said. “I saw the goalie look back. And I saw everyone else react. I didn’t actually see it go in.”

“The first shot, I blocked it,” Geneseo goalie Devon McDonald said. “Then everyone scrambled for the middle. It was a rolling puck and it went off his blade. I thought it was going one way. It kind of curled in under my arm. You can make as many excuses as you want, but it was a weird shot off the blade. I misread it.”

“We were very fortunate to win that game on a timely goal,” MacDonald said. “Honestly, I knew it was late in the third. When I looked up and saw 1.6 seconds, I was super happy.”

“I heard someone else say 1.6,” Grillo said. “The last thing on my mind was how much time was left. Just extremely lucky it wasn’t 1.6 seconds later.”

“A tough pill to swallow, losing the game in that fashion,” Geneseo coach Chris Schultz said.

Another key factor in the win was Colby’s goalie, Sean Lawrence, a transfer from Quinnipiac, who made 38 saves.

MacDonald said, “The reason we won the game was Sean Lawrence and the save he made with five minutes left, pad save, was ridiculous.”

“He made a big save on me,” the shot taker, Andrew Romano, said. “I got to elevate that, and I didn’t. That’s the difference. We’re done and they won.”

“Closed my eyes and stuck out my leg,” Lawrence joked. “Thank God he didn’t elevate it. I tried to poke check him coming through the crease. He made a nice move and went around it. So, it was pure desperation at that point and I tried to seal the ice the best I could.”

Romano did setup the lone Geneseo goal at 8:18 of the final period while on a two-man advantage power play. He passed to Arthur Gordon on the right side who fired it into the near side.

“Great shot,” MacDonald said. “That kid has got an NHL shot.”

After a scoreless first period, it only took Colby 40 seconds to score in the second. A slowly developing two-on-one seemed to mess up McDonald’s timing, enabling Stahlhuth to slip it past him.

Colby’s defense in the first two periods contained Geneseo. Not so much in the third, where the Ice Knights came out hungry.

“I knew they were going to come out strong,” Lawrence said.

Geneseo outshot Colby 18-4 in the final period.

“They came out that very first shift and established the type of tenor in that period that they wanted, and we were just hanging on,” MacDonald said.

“They started clicking,” Schultz said of his team. “We switched a couple of lines up to try to mix things up a little bit, and it worked pretty well. We carried the third period. We had a lot of scoring opportunities we didn’t cash in on.”

It was Geneseo’s first home loss this season. They wound up with a 20-6-3 record.

“I just wish we would have given them our best 60 minutes tonight, and we didn’t do that,” Schultz said.

This is Colby’s second appearance in the NCAA playoffs and the first year they’ve won. After their second NCAA victory, they are heading to Lake Placid to face St. Norbert in the semifinals. Colby is now 17-10-2.

“This is our fifth weekend in a row on the road,” MacDonald said. “To win this game is a real credit to the players. They hunkered in. No mental fatigue. They had a lot of midterm exams last week. That’s a player’s win if I ever seen one.”