Men’s ice hockey falls to Trinity in NESCAC semis

Men’s ice hockey (14–9–3, 10–5–3 in the NESCAC) was eliminated from the NESCAC tournament Saturday after losing 4-2 to the eventual champion, No. 3 seed Trinity.

At Hamilton’s Russell Sage Rink, the Ephs scored the game’s first two goals but were ultimately unable to quash the Bantams’ offense. Goaltender Michael Pinios ’19 made 33 saves in the game, while Bantams goalie Alex Morin made 26 stops. The Bantams, who scored a NESCAC-leading 3.61 goals per game in conference play, finished with a 37-28 advantage in shots on goal.

The teams had split their two regular season games, and each came into the contest looking to secure a spot in the tournament finals. At 8:06 of the first period, the men went up 1-0. The puck bounced off the boards to Taylor Carmola ’18, who fired a one-time slap shot from the right point. Alex Hagerty ’17 deflected it in for his eighth goal this year.

The Ephs doubled their lead at 12:40. A Trinity turnover gave C.J. Shugart ’18 the puck near the right circle. Shugart made a quick cross pass to the wide-open Luke Stickel ’17, who tapped it in easily from the left side of the crease. Stickel, who scored the game-winning goal in the quarterfinal win over Amherst, netted his fourth goal of the season.

The Bantams, however, responded quickly. They scored with six minutes left in the half to cut the deficit to one.

At 17:49, Carmola was called to the box for tripping. The Ephs contained the Bantam attack for most of the two-minute penalty, but with 13 seconds left in the power play, Trinity caught the men in transition. At 19:36, Trinity’s Barclay Gammill elevated a backhand over Pinios’s glove side, tying the game at two right before the buzzer. Trinity led 9-8 in shots in the first period.

Two minutes after the intermission, Trinity forward Sean Orlando received the puck in Pinios’ crease. He hesitated before trying a backhand, but Pinios knocked it away to thwart the chance.

There were no goals scored in the second period, but Trinity again led in shots, 12-9. The Ephs’ strong shot-blocking, however, kept the game level.

Tensions mounted in the third. Just a minute in, Trinity forward Ryan Whitney put a backhand shot on net, but Pinios made an excellent save. At 3:30, Frankie Mork ’17 entered the offensive zone and dropped the puck off to Roberto Cellini ’19. Morin was able to divert Cellini’s shot, and the teams remained even.

The men had their best chances of the period seven minutes in. The Ephs controlled the puck for an extended interval in the Bantams’ zone. Colby Cretella ’18 rifled a shot that was turned away by Morin, but James McNamara ’17 collected the rebound and forced another save from Morin on a wraparound.

At 10:24, Orlando had a breakaway chance on a Trinity power play. He crashed into Pinios, but the puck stayed out. The Bantams’ offense was full of energy, forcing 14 saves from Pinios in the final period.

With 1:41 left in regulation, the Bantams finally broke the tie. A shot bounced awkwardly off the boards and found the stick of Orlando, who was positioned in front of the net. The NESCAC’s top overall scorer, he converted to give Trinity a 3-2 lead, its first of the game. With 20 seconds left, the Bantams cemented the victory when Ethan Holdaway scored on an empty net.

“The game could have gone either way,” co-captain Tyler Young ’17 said. “It just came down a fortunate bounce for Trinity late in the game.”

“We played really well,” co-captain Sam Gray ’17 said, “so it wasn’t fun to lose like that.”

In the finals, Trinity went on to defeat top seed Hamilton in overtime, winning the tournament for the second straight year.

For alternate captain George Hunkele ’17, Mork, McNamara, Gray, Stickel, Young, Hagerty and Carmola, the game marked the end of their collegiate hockey careers. Mork was a First Team All-NESCAC selection this year.

“I am proud of what our class has done over four years,” Young, who was Second Team All-NESCAC last year, said. “We would have loved to have gone out with a championship, but we know we leave this program more than ready to take the next step.”

The Ephs return First Team All-NESCAC pick David Italiano ’18 and Second Team choice Cellini. Italiano led the NESCAC with 25 points in conference play, and Cellini ranked third with 21.