|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 naïve 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.
BUZZER. Trinity holds on for 3-2 victory to head to title game. pic.twitter.com/FFIfV0tYEe— Hockey in the 'Cac (@hockeyinthecac) March 24, 2017