Castleton versus Norwich in the championship round of the ECAC Division III Men’s East Tournament. That’s how the script read to many who had been following both teams all season. Logically, all the signs pointed to a championship game with the Cadets hosting the Spartans at Kreitzberg Arena in the “Battle of Vermont” being showcased at the highest stage of the game.Well, Babson had other plans.
The Beavers, seeded fifth, raced out to a 3-0 lead midway through the second period and held off a late Castleton rally to halt the number two seed of its national tournament hopes with a 4-3 victory at Kreitzberg Arena last Friday in the semifinal round of the ECAC East Tournament.
“That’s playoff hockey. It was close, it was right down to the wire,” said Coach Alex Todd. “I thought we did some very good things, but unfortunately we just didn’t get any hops.
“I thought we were a lock for an at-large bid (in the NCAA tournament), but i guess not.”
Castleton’s season ended, however, as the Spartans did not receive a bid into the Division III National Tournament on selection Monday.
In the first period, Mike Hoban jumpstarted the Beavers offense at 6:07, roofing a wrist shot over Erick Cinotti’s blocker for a 1-0 lead.
At 12:33, Babson pushed its advantage to 2-0 as Jay Haseley cleaned up a loose puck in front of the net for his seventh goal of the season.
By no means was Castleton out of the contest down 2-0 headed into the second period, but an uncharacteristic mistake by freshman defenseman Ryan Delorme gave the Beavers all the momentum they needed to close out the victory.
On the penalty kill at 4:29, Terry Woods intercepted a pass from Delorme inside the slot area and backhanded a shot past a helpless Cinotti (17 saves) for a 3-0 lead.
“That shorthanded goal was unacceptable,” said Todd. “It’s something they haven’t done all year so it kind of surprised me.”
In fact, it was only the second time on the entire season Castleton gave up a shorthanded goal to an opponent outscoring the opposition 5-2 in that situation.
With the season potentially on the line, the Spartans roared back late in the stanza as Dan Bell potted his ninth goal of the season on a feed from Justin Alonzo beating Zeke Testa (23 saves) at the 18:26 mark.
A few moments later (19:08), Colin Murray sniped a wrist shot over Testa’s blocker on a nice setup from Lindsey Gullett to cut the deficit to 3-2.
In the third period, Matt O’Neill answered for Babson with his seventh goal of the season at 9:28 of the period. Dan Ahern and Ryan Smith picked up assists on the tally.
ECAC East Player of the Year Josh Harris looked to rally the Spartans at 12:28 drilling home a rebound 16th of the season, but Castleton’s rally fell short as the Spartans did not manage too many quality scoring chances for the remainder of the game.