Friday, March 24, 2017

NCAA Semis Live: Trinity downs St. Norbert 3-2

Four will enter, only one we leave on top of the iron throne
of DII men's ice hokcey 

Welcome to Utica, NY, the Second Chance City, where the Bantams of Trinity will have their second chance at an NCAA title in three years this weekend. First they'll have to get by the reigning national runners-up in St. Norbert.

Physicality was the name of the game early with a plethora of hits, including some involving the goalie, like when all l 6'2" of 2nd line winger Roman Uchyn slammed into Alex Morin.

Ethan Holdaway got laid out in the neutral zone about thirteen minutes into the period and on the ensuing zone entrance senior Golden Knight Jeremy Olinyk beat Morin glove side for the 1-0 St. Norbert lead.

Immediately after Bantams went on the first power of the game on an interference call against SNC. Tyler Whitney at the point fed Ryan Cole just below the right post  before the Alaskan assassin crossed it diagonally to Anthony Sabitsky, the hero of double OT in the quarters, for the one time tally. The Bantams outshot the Knights 16-8 but the period was nowhere near as lopsided as that doubling of attempts on net suggests. In fact, Bantam coach Matt Greason said his team gave up too many opportunities in the first frame.


The Bantam faithful down by the glass in the 2nd, ready to mix it up

Period two started in the same physical manner as the first and away we went for an action packed 20 minutes. The Bantams took their first lead of the game  just 1:28 into the second period, when Anthony Sabitsky avoided a hip check as he streaked down the side, entered the zone, stopped on a dime from the circle and fed it across to Ethan Holdaway for the tally.

St. Norbert's went on the power play at the 8:13 on a suspect - at least from the opposite end of the ice- hooking call on Barclay Gammill.  Pijus Rulevicius went top shelf on the power play to pull Norwich even. The senior St. Nobert forward said he gave his "heart and soul" in his final collegiate game.

Soon after the Bantams had successive power plays, including twenty ticks of 5-on-3, and while they had good movement on the man advantage, they were unable to capitalize.  The Bantams did however,  regain the lead in the final two minutes on a Sam Johnson goal.

"I remember all my goals, period" Johnson joked after the game, alluding to the scarcity of his tallies. The senior leader of Greason's gang last scored on opening night 2016 against Tufts. He has three collegiate goals headed into his final college game in the 2017 NCAA title.

Johnson gave all the credit to Tyler Whitney for setting him up on the play. Whitney assisted on all three Bant goals on afternoon.

"I’ve had that play (from Whitney) a few times the past month.  I saw Ty coming around the net and I’m lucky it’s Ty coming around the net.  He found me pretty easily there.  I just called for it, put it on net short side so that if I miss it’s still there.  It was a great pass, it’s gonna take care of itself.”

Trinity was not complacent early on as coach Greason said the first half of the third was "really, really good."  But at some point, you knew a team as good as St.Norbert will make a push. Midway through the period, Andrews, who was called in the first for an interference, laid out Barclay Gammill on a clean hit. ST. Norbert coach Tim Coughlin thought his team had a three-on-one transition after that but the ref blowed the play dead becaues of Gammill's inability to get up, at least initially. The frosh would eventually get up and stay in the game.

The Knights would make a push in the final minutes and they "rattled the post" as their coach said. Greason said that "we bent and we bent and we bent but we didn't break break and I think that’s a good way to fight for another day."

In the closing few minutes, Coughlin seemed to switch up the lines going with what appeared to be a line of Rulevicius, freshman Dominick Sacco (the Brooklyn native set up Rulevicius on the PP goal) and sophomore Riley Christensen.  Sacco had a great redirect in front that trickled just wide of the post past Morin, who made 31 saves on the afternoon. 

After a timeout with 1:38 left, Coughlin pulled TJ Black, who ended the day and his stellar season with 34 saves. The Knights pushed and pushed, but as Greason said the Bantams didn't break, holding on for their second trip to the NCAA championship game in three seasons. 

It's easier to sound like a cohesive unit when winning, but Greason, Whitney and Johnson all sounded like they have something special in this locker room. Greason admitted he needed to give a "surface" answer when talking about his team because he might get too emotional. Perhaps they felt themselves too much earlier in the year, as Greason admitted his boys bought into their own hype at the beginning of the season.

"We have a few more losses than this team planned on losing.  I think with the talent we have in the room, we expected it to be 80 degrees and sunny all year and that’s just a little na├»ve and we learned that the hard way there."

But learn they did and now the Bantams are one win away from their second title in three seasons. They'll have to get by the Cadets of Norwich, who downed Adrian 5-4 in OT to make it an all east finals. Let the fireworks begin tomorrow night at seven. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

NCAA Semifinal 3/24/17: Trinity vs St. Norbert 3 PM Utica Memorial Auditorium

Trinity (20-6-3)
Offense - 4.10 G/GM (11th) 
Defense - 1.79 G/GM (3rd) 
PIM - 11.41/GM (63rd)
Power Play - 20.71% (26th)
Penalty Kill - 89.7% (2nd)

St. Norbert (22-5-1)
Offense -  G/GM 3.82M (14th) 
Defense - 1.61 G/GM (1st) 
PIM - 12.29/GM (57th)
Power Play - 14.69% (64th)
Penalty Kill - 88.8% (4th)  Preview Road to Utica Podcast      Trinity Preview

The Lowdown: Something Intangible
"Something intangible." 

That's what senior writer and lovable curmudgeon Matthew Webb said this game will come down to on the "Road to Utica Podcast". Yes, sure, that's an easy answer for this time of year when all the teams are good, but it is especially  true in this case. Both teams have players with championship experience with the Bantams winning in 2015 and St. Norbert winning in 2014 and finishing as the runners-up last season. Trinity has the slight edge on offense, St. Norbert on defense and it is anyone's guess on special teams. St. Norbert is an established power out West, Trinity is fast becoming a new powerhouse out east. It is the first meeting between these two teams in their programs' histories.

So, yeah, intangibles.

We know what Trinity brings: the strong play recently of Alex Morin, including 49 saves in the double OT victory over Endicott in the Quarterfinals, the leadership of Sam Johnson, the  fire power of the upperclassmen lines  (Sabitsky/Cole Brothers and Orlando/Holdaway/Sabitsky), the dynamic young coach in Matt Greason, etc.

Despite the depth of talent on the Bantams squad, no one figured onto any of the three American Hockey Coaches Association East All-American teams released on Thursday. Hamilton's Evan Buitenhuis was named to the First Team and was awarded the Sid Watson Award (think DIII Hobey Baker) but no other NESCAC players made the squads. Trinity's Ryan Cole made the first team as a sophomore in 2015 and teammate Sean Orlando - who currently has seven points (5-2-7) in five playoff games this season - made the third team last year.

Out West, St. Norbert goalie T.J. Black made First Team West All-American and the sophomore certainly has the capability to stifle the Bantams offense as Endicott goale Kevin Aldridge mostly did with 67 saves in the NCAA Quarterfinals. Blueliner Sean Campbell also made the All-America West Second Team.

Offensively, the Knights score by committee with eight players with 7+ goals but none more than 13 with Tanner Froese owning that distinction. The Knights are a defensive team and will look to limit the opportunistic scoring and transition game that led the 2015 Bantams to victories over Adrian and TriniUW-Stevens Point for the NCAA title that season.

It should be a fun one from the historic Utica Memorial Auditorium with a trip to the NCAA championship game on the line vs the winner of Adrian/Norwich in the second semi. So slip out of work early, fuel up with some tomato pies or chicken riggies, and get ready to cheer on the Bantams vs the Green Knights. When Trinity was a disappointing 3-3 early in the season, did you ever think your Friday afternoon on March 24th would look like this?

In honor of Trinity facing off against a team from Le Pere, Wisconsin in a game that could be anything, here's perhaps the most famous Wisconsin band, Violent Femmes. 

Utica Memorial Auditorium: 2nd Building to Host D1 and DIII Frozen Fours

courtesy of

This post originally appeared on the site in 2013 and then again this past fall when Amherst traveled to Utica and defeated the host Pioneers.

In honor of  Trinity's trip to the Aud to face off against St. Norbert tomorrow in the DIII Frozen Four, we present another update.

After beating U-Mass Darmouth in the play in round of the 2013 NCAA Division-III NCAA men's
ice hockey tournament, the Polar Bears of Bowdoin travel to upstate New York to face the Pionners of Utica College at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. While their classmates will be off sipping wine at study abroad campuses or pounding beers on Spring Break, Dan Weiniger and the rest of the Bowdoin team will be sweating away in the NCAAs at one of the most storied stadiums in all of D-III hockey.      

The Utica Memorial Auditorium, or "Aud", was the vision of former Utica mayor John McKennan. In 1956, the city of Utica hired the architectural firm of Gehron & Seltzer to build a stadium, and the team soon found out the task was more complicated than your run of the mill arena construction. For starters, the site was small, necessitating a round design, and the building required a colorless roof that wasn't too high because that would make it too difficult to heat and cool the building.

Hamilton's Evan Buitenhuis wins 2017 Sid Watson Award

Teammates surround Evan Buitenhuis after the Continentals lost the 2017 NESCAC MIH Title in OT
The American Hockey Coaches Association announced at the DIII Men's Ice Hockey awards banquet on Thursday that Hamilton goalie Evan Buitenhuis had won the 2017 Sid Watson Award. The honor, named after fedora clad Bowdoin coaching legend Sid Watson, is awarded each year by the AHCA to the best player in DIII men's hockey.

Eight NESCAC players have taken home the honor since the AHCA started awarding it in 1993. The last to win from the 'CAC was also a goalie when Amherst's Jonathan La Rose took home the hardware in 2012. Middlebury skaters have won four times, Bowdoin once and Amherst has won twice (including La Rose).

No goalies won the award in its first 13 seasons of existence, but netminders have won eight of the last twelve seasons, including the last four seasons. The last skater to win was Paul Rodrigues in 2013. Rodrigues, a former SUNY Oswego Laker, has bounced between the ECHL and SPHL since leaving upstate New York in 2013. He currently has 32 points (12-20-32) in 56 games for the Norfolk Admirals of the ECHL this season. Last season's winner, Babson goalie Jamie Murray, has a 3.56 Goals Against Average and .901 Save% in 35 games for the Allen Americans of the ECHL this season. The ECHL is the "AA" level of minor league hockey.

Buitenhuis, who won the NESCAC Player of the Year Award last month, was the only NESCAC player to make any of the AHCA's three eastern All-American teams, coming in on the First Team, obviously. The Burlington, Ontario native posted a 1.78 GAA and .941 Save Percentage, both in the top seven nationally even after a less than stellar game in the Norwich loss in the NCAA Quarterfinals to end the season. Heading into the NESCAC semifinals, "Boots" hadn't allowed more than three goals in a game all season. He has only let up more than four goals twice in his collegiate career, which has spanned 54 games a .943 save percentage.

As we've discussed here regularly, Boots is an absolute stud and the biggest reason the Continentals had their best season in school history. As the picture above shows, he has the confidence of his teammates, as they immediately and forcefully consoled him after a Ryan Cole shot nicked a Hamilton defender just enough to go past Buitenhuis in OT of the NESCAC championship game to lift Trinity to the title.

Hamilton coach Rob Haberbusch had glowing things to say about his junior netminder, which you can read in the AHCA official release here.

Congrats, Boots. Now we prepare for tomorrow's semifinal between Trinity and St. Norbert's in Utica.

For today, the Burlington, Ontario goaltender rules the D-III hockey world. Here's Burlington, Ontario band Walk off The Earth "Rule The World"

Monday, March 20, 2017

NCAA Quarterfinals: Trinity advances in double OT, Hamilton's most successful season comes to an end

Trinity won the NESCAC finals in OT. They needed 2OT to advance
to the NCAA DIII Frozen Four.

In Vermont, Evan Buitenhuis gave up the most goals (5)  he has allowed in his career and the top seed in the east Norwich Cadets laid waste to the Continentals 6-2 (Box). The game was close until two goals in the final two minutes of the second period gave the Cadets a commanding 4-1 lead heading into the final frame. Senior blueliners Conor Lamberti and Jon Carkeek had the two tallies for the Continentals to close out their careers.

Hamilton didn't bring their A game to Norwich, but the season as a whole was certainly a success. The nine man senior class,, which includes 100 point club member Robbie Murden, failed to make the NESCAC playoffs in their freshman year but did the following in their final collegiate season: set a school record in wins (20); earned the program's first trip to the NESCAC semis and finals; earned the school's first trip to the NCAA Tournament and first NCAA Tournament win.

Norwich advances to the DIII Frozen Four in Utica to face Adrian, who defeated UW-Stevens Point in one of the other NCAA Quarterfinals. IT would have been nice for the Conts to play in a Frozen Four 10 miles from home, but Hamilton isn't likely to be going away as a NESCAC contender next season with the return of Buitenhuis and five of their six top scorers from this season.

In Hartford, Anthony Sabitsky redirected a pass from Ryan Cole 4:15 into the second overtime to lift Trinity past Endicott 2-1 (Box). The Bantams put 69 shots on Gulls goalie Kevin Aldridge on the evening. Alex Morin stopped 49 shots of his own, including 16 in the overtime periods. Sean Orlando scored the first tally for the Bantams, bringing his post season total (three NESCAC playoff games and two NCAA tournament games) to seven (2-5-7).

The Bantams head to Utica for their second DIII Frozen Four in three years to face St. Norbert, who defeated Augsburg to round out the field of four. Trinity won the whole shebang two years ago in Minnesota with wins over Adrian and UW-Stevens Points. The Bants have made the last three NCAA tournaments and now have a 6-1 to date in the NCAA tournament under Matt Greason.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

NCAA Quarterfinals: Hamilton at Norwich; Endicott at Trinity

Hamilton teammates console Evan Buitenhuis after
NESCAC title game OT loss. Conts will hope to surround him
in celebration tonight as they did after the Oswego game.

Hamilton at Norwich     7 PM    Video 
Hamilton (20-4-4) (all stats are national rank)
Offense - 3.21 G/GM (34th)
Defense - 1.71 G/GM (3rd)
PIM - 9.5/GM (70th)
Power Play - 16.41% (54th)
Penalty Kill - 89.5.% (3rd)
US News and World Report College score (out of 100) - 86

Norwich (24-1-3) 
Offense - 4.25 G/GM (8th)
Defense - 1.68 G/GM (2nd)
PIM - 8.9/GM (73rd)
Power Play - 26.62% (6th)
Penalty Kill - 83.5.% (26th)

US News and World Report College score (out of 100) - 54

The Lowdown: Brian Lester is probably wrong
Am I homer? Damn straight I am, I want Trinity and Hamilton to win their respective games and make the dream of an All-NESCAC final remain a possibility for at least one more day. But I'm also a realist and recognize that Hamilton's task in particular is a pretty tall order: become the first team to beat Norwich in Vermont all season.

That being said, most college hockey observers would predict a low scoring affair in Northfield, Vermont this Saturday. Brian Lester, USCHO's D-III Western columnist, however,picks this to be a 4-2 game, but we can probably chalk this up to his not having likely watch any eastern games this season. But god bless USCHO, they do pretend to care about D-III hockey, so at least we'll give them that.

The Cadets of Norwich they have the obvious advantage in pedigree - a 26-14-12 record in the NCAA tournament, including three national titles 2000, 2003 and 2010 - vs Hamilton's lone NCAA experience of last weekend's game at Oswego, who also had a huge advantage in the history department.

Norwich last met a NESCAC team in the NCAA tournament just two years ago, when Amherst rallied to down the Cadets 4-3 in overtime on a Mike Rowbotham tally. The Purple and White had trailed until an Aaron Deutsch goal in the final fifteen seconds forced OT.

The Cadets and Continentals are longtime foes due to the old ECAC-E/NESCAC interlock, though they haven't played since 2010 in the last season of the interlock. Norwich hodls the 56-29-3 all time lead in the series.

In terms of shared opponents this season, for whatever that is worth, Norwich is 7-1-1 and Hamilton is 6-0-1 this season. The Continentals swept Skidmore and Middlebury, while going 1-0-1 against Williams and defeating New England College in non-conference action. Norwich won all games against those opponents, except for their sole loss of the season thus far at Skidmore in OT way back in November and a tie at Middlebury in January.

The Cadets are, obviously, not light on talent, nor experience with their top ten scorers all coming from the junior or senior classes. Up front they are led by All New England Hockey Conference First Team forward William Pelletier, whose 2.05 points per game (16-25-41 in 20 games) is the best in the nation. On the blueline, they also have a First Team All-Conference player in assist master Cody Smith (2-30-32). They also have the NEHC Second Team All-NEHC goalie in junior Braeden Ostepchuk, who appears in a rotation with senior Ty Reichenbach. The senior started the NEHC title game but Ostepchuk was in net for the Cadets 3-1 first round NCAA win against Salem State. They are experienced behind the bench as well, as Mike McShane won NECH Coach of the Year after leading his Cadets to its conferences best record for the 18th time in the last 19 seasons (what is now NEHC used to be ECAC-NE until recently).

For the Conts, you know the scouting by this point. Two of the hottest Conts recently are Robbie Murden, who has two goals in three games (including both goals against Oswego) since returning from a serious injury that almost ended his career with 99 points, and freshman blueline Bennett Morrison, who has eight points in his last seven games (5-3-8) and has turned into a terror from the point.

In net, there is, of course, the NESCAC Player of the Year Evan Buitenhuis. Boots was tremendous last weekend, leading to this observation from one of the Oswego announcers:

In the USCHO pre-review, coach Rob Haberbusch talked about prep centering around executing his own team's game plan, which is something you will hear often from coaches this time of year. Norwich is the favorite, but the Continentals showed last weekend they have the recipe for going into a hostile building and taking the upset: discipline (0 penalties last week), opportunistic scoring and great goaltender. #RollConts

Endicott at Trinity    7 PM    Video 

Trinity (19-6-3)
Offense - 4.18 G/GM (11th) 
Defense - 1.82 G/GM (4th) 
PIM - 11.54/GM (63rd)
Power Play - 20.74% (26th)
Penalty Kill - 89.3% (4th)

US News and World Report College score (out of 100) - 75

Endicott (24-3-2)
Offense - 4.97 G/GM (1st) 
Defense - 1.897 G/GM (6th) 
PIM - 11.54/GM (63rd)
Power Play - 28.86% (2nd)
Penalty Kill - 86.7% (9th)
US News and World Report College score (out of 100) - 61

The Lowdown: This
If Trinity wins they'll make it to the DIII Frozen Four for the second time in three years, while Endicott would make their first trip in only their second year as an NCAA squad. The Gulls, whose success is sometimes seen as a bit suspect coming from the weaker CCC (formerly ECAC-Northeast), pulled out a gutsy win in the Cooler against Hobart last week to earn a trip to Hartford.

The Gulls are led by a pair of 40+ point scoring forwards up front in Tomy Bessinger and Cam Bleck and are anchored on the back end by Providence transfer Log Day, who leads DIII blueliners in scoring with 38 points (15-23-28). In net, Lake Superior transfer Kevin Alderidge has paced Endicott in net net with a .935 Save Percentage and a 2.02 Goals Against Average.

There are no common opponents this season between the two schools and it is the first ever meeting between the programs. Both are abundantly capable of winning this game and as seen between this twitter exchange between Ray Biggs, editor and Jake Donnelly, voice of the Bantams, pretty much anything can happen in this game. However the means or by what score, #RollBants and punch a ticket to Utica for a date with the naitonal semifinals and a plate of chicken riggies.

It won't be easy, but fingers crossed for both the Bantams and Continentals surviving this weekend with their title hopes still alive. Happy belated St. Patrick's Day as well.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

NCAA 1st Round: Trinity and Hamilton Advance


Hamilton downed host Oswego 3-1 (Box) and Trinity handled Plattsburgh 4-1 (Box ) to earn the NESCAC 1/4 of the spots in the NCAA D-III Men's Ice Hockey Championship Tournament. Hamilton travels to first seed in the east Norwich while Trinity hosts Endicott, who upset Hobart to earn a trip the final eight.

The Continentals carried a 2-0 lead into the third against the Lakers, thanks to a goal in each of the first two periods by Robbie Murden, who now has a three goals in the two games back from a brutal jaw injury suffered in late January during the Continentals' annual Orange Bowl and alumni weekend. In the first, Murden pounced on a defensive miscue in front of the net by the Lakers defense and in the second he redirected a Bennett Morrison shot from the point on the power play.

The Lakers did not roll over in the third and the Conts survived consistent pressure in the second half of the final frame to hold on for the victory. Jon Stickel netted the empty netter to seal it and Evan Buitenhuis stopped 34 of the 35 shots he faced to help the Continentals do what Bowdoin could not in 2010, 11 and 14: beat Oswego on the shores of Lake Ontario in the NCAA Tournament.

Meanwhile, 280 miles southwest from Oswego, Trinity handled the hot Cardinals thanks to two power play goals on three opportunities and four penalty kills on all four Cardinal man advantages. Trinity outshot Plattsburgh 39-27 for their seventh straight game with a shots advantage, all with at least a +9 in favor of the Bantams. In fact, the Bantams have only been outshot four times in 28 contests this season.

The bevy of Bantam upperclassmen did not score the last time these two met in Hartford just two Marches ago, but things were different last night. Sean Orlando potted two in the first, and fellow senior Brandon Cole netted two more the rest of the way including an empty netter to seal it.

Onwards and updwards for the 'CAC. Hamilton looks to do what no team has been able to do this season - beat Norwich in Vermont - for their first ever trip to the NCAA DIII Frozen Four appearance (this is their first ever NCAA tournament appearance), while the Bantams look to make their second trip to the Frozen Four in three years (they won it all in 2015). It would be an especially special time for the Conts first trip as this year's semis and finals are being held in their backyard at The Aud in Utica.

Recaps from for the 1st Round games can be found here  for the Trinity game and here for the Hamilton game.

Now for some tweets of support from other CAC schools and let's keep it all the CAC family with Conn Collee alumni band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah for the musical postscript :