One of the most hyped up games in recent memory featured the No. 3 ranked Castleton State Spartans hosting the No. 4 Norwich Cadets (according to the USCHO.com online poll). With 1,505 fist-pumping fans packed into Spartan Arena, the spectators saw little to pump about. “The Battle for Vermont” was clearly one sided and on Feb. 11 the Cadets would not lose to anyone but the third best team in Division III.Norwich won 5-2, but the game was much farther out of reach for the Spartans than that. The damage started just 19 seconds into the game when Pier-Olivier Cotnoir put it past Spartan Goalie Seth McNary on the Cadets first shot of the game. Just a minute latter Cotnoir found the back of the net again as the Spartan defense could not clear the puck out of the zone. At one point before the first period was over, it was a 21-4 advantage in shots on net for the Cadets.
“They just out-skated us, but we have to move on and grow from this,” said Castleton coach Alex Todd, whose Spartans beat the Cadets 3-2 in overtime earlier this season.
The first 20 minutes couldn’t come to an end quick enough as Norwich’s Greg Eskedjian crushed the hearts of Spartan fans by scoring in the last second of the first period.
McNary was pulled from the game after the first period, giving way to Erick Cinotti. Cinotti’s numbers are better than McNarys on the seasonbut McNary was in goal when Castleton beat Norwich earlier in the year. The Cadets side of the ice was barely touched as they made it 4-0 just 5 minutes into the 2nd period, on a 3-on-2 odd-man rush, where Norwich’s Chad Anderson was left alone and deked Cinotti right out of his net.
Though the Spartans were in their defensive zone most of the night, Castleton’s Chris Weiland, a mid-season transfer from SUNY Plattsburgh, found himself a rebound in front of the Norwich net and put it home to make it 4-1.
Castleton took the momentum and scored on a Dru Douglas slap shot from the point on the power play to make it 4-2. With Cinotti pulled for the extra attacker, Cotnoir finished his night off with a hat trick with an empty net goal from his own blue line as he was diving though the air.
On Saturday, Feb. 12, the Spartans had their senior night and senior captain Stuart Stefan earned himself his own hat trick, as the Spartans squeaked by Staint Michael’s College 6-4. Defenseman Jonathan Lafrance was the other senior who played his last home, regular-season game. Cinotti got his 10th win of the season. The Spartans improve to a program-record 19-3-1 overall but fall to 2nd in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference East standings 13-3-1.