Bantams top men’s hockey in OT to end season for Ephmen

A valiant effort by men’s hockey fell just short, as the Trinity Bantams topped the Ephs 3-2 in overtime in the quarterfinals of the NESCAC men’s ice hockey championship tournament in West Hartford, Conn.

Forward Andrew Halder scored the game-winnner 2:42 into the overtime period for the second-seeded Bantams (17-5-2, 15-3-1 in the NESCAC play), who entered the contest ranked 12th nationally. Trinity moves on to meet third-seeded Colby in Middlebury, Vt., in the semifinals, while the Ephs finish their season with an 8-15-2 (8-9-2 in the NESCAC) record.

“It really was a great game,” Eph goalie Mike Aroesty ’03 said. “It was tough to end the season on an overtime loss, but still, I can honestly say that everyone on our team played really well.”

Trinity’s Ryan Stevens opened the scoring at 16:54 of the first period, rebounding a loose puck after defenseman Tim Joncas blasted a slapshot off of Aroesty. Trinity then held the lead until 16:07 of the second period, when Williams forward Steve Baldassari ’05 evened the score with his 10th goal of the season. Brian Teixeira ’04 and Craig Wadman ’03 both assisted on the play.

The seventh-seeded Ephs then appeared on the verge of upsetting the Bantams, as Jabe Bergeron ’04, assisted by Wes Fox ’03 and Bill Gilchrist ’03, scored on the visitors with 5:26 remaining in regulation to put the Ephs ahead 2-1.

Trinity, however, refused to die quietly, knotting the score at 2-2 on a goal by defenseman Brendan Timmins with just 37 seconds left on the game clock. Trinity had pulled goalie Doug Kisielius and inserted an extra attacker on the ice, and Timmins saved the Bantams’ season after rebounding a shot by forward Jeff Natale. Halder then completed the comeback in overtime, depositing the puck in the back of the net following a scramble just outside the Eph crease.

Although the final result was disappointing, Williams outplayed Trinity for much of the contest. Several Ephs put forth outstanding efforts, including Aroesty (33 saves), who helped to keep the mighty Bantam power play attack, which entered the contest as the most efficient in the nation, scoreless in four attempts. The Eph attackers were equally impressive, tallying 50 shots on goal compared to 36 for Trinity. Kiselius, however, was up to the task, amassing 48 saves for the Bantams.

The loss ends a challenging season for the Ephs, who stumbled a bit after winning four of their first six games, including their first four conference games.

“The season was a roller coaster,” Aroesty said. “We lost something like eight games by one goal, so it seemed like we were always almost there, but we could never quite get to where we wanted to be.”

Fortunately, despite the loss of several talented seniors, the Ephs seem to be poised for a run at the NESCAC crown next season.

“We are returning a huge class of seniors-to-be, so there are going to be a lot of great leaders on the team next year,” Aroesty said. “The chemistry on the team should be really good, and Williams is definitely going to be a NESCAC contender.”

Five of the Ephs’ top six scorers will return, including Teixeira (29 points) and Devon O’Rourke ’06 (29 points), who shared the team point lead with Fox. Jake Clapton ’05 (26 points) and goal-leader Bergeron (25 points, 18 goals), who finished tied for the NESCAC lead in goals per game with 0.89, will also be back, as will several members of the defensive corps.

In the remainder of the NESCAC tournament, top-seeded Middlebury will host fifth-seeded Hamilton in the first semifinal game on March 8, with the victor moving on to face the winner of the Trinity-Colby matchup, also on March 8, in the championship game on March 9. The winner of the tournament earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Div. III Championship tournament.