Castleton visited the Norwich Cadets on Friday for the ECAC East semifinal round game, a rematch of last year’s finals matchup. Unfortunately the Spartans met the same fate as last year, as the Cadets beat the Spartans 6-2.
“It’s just a good conference with a lot of good teams,” head coach Alex Todd said. “We played our hearts out this season, but it wasn’t enough.”
The Spartans came into the game looking to avenge two regular season losses to the Cadets, one back on Dec. 1 where they lost 2-1 and the other on Feb. 8 where they lost 6-1.
Castleton fell behind early in the contest. After turning the puck over in their own defensive zone the Spartans were unable to stop the Cadets as forward Tory Allen collected the puck and quickly passed it over to Colin Mulvey. Mulvey then centered the puck to Travis Janke who was all alone in front of the net and Janke punched it in to put the Cadets up 1-0, just 3:45 into the game.
Less than two minutes later the Cadets were able to convert again. This time, it was Blake Forkey with the goal. Forkey was able to poke the puck from goaltender Erick Cinotti, who had the puck seemingly covered up, to score Norwich’s second goal of the night. Cinotti was pulled after the goal to give freshman Jake Stafford a shot in net.
Going into the second period the Spartans needed to make stops and get on the scoreboard. The Cadets though were not having that and 4:58 into the second period they scored again. This time Pier Olivier-Cotnoir lit the lamp on a rebound goal that he lifted over the lunging Stafford.
The Cadets again capitalized on a defensive zone turnover four minutes later as Olivier-Cotnoir gathered the puck and flung a pass to Shane Gorman who one-timed it by Stafford for the goal.
“They didn’t do anything really special,” Todd said. “They just put shots on net and were fortunate to score, we put shots on net and weren’t.”
Castleton finally got on the board with 3:50 remaining in the second period. Looking to capitalize on their first power play opportunity, Justin Alonzo passed up ahead to Ryan Frost who scored his seventh goal of the season. The goal brought the score to 4-1.
Going into the third period, Castleton needed to find a spark if they wanted to extend their season. Just 59 seconds into the third, senior Brett Zeggil picked up a loose puck and brought it down the ice on the penalty kill. After getting by on defender, he duked the goalie to score, which cut the cadets lead to two.
The Cadets responded swiftly though only 40 seconds later that deficit was back to three as Dean Niezgoda beat Stafford glove side to put Norwich up 5-2.
Castleton pulled their goalie with 3:42 left in the game in hopes of a comeback; it was in vein though as the Cadets scored an empty net goal with 2:22 left to make it 6-2 and that is how it would end.
The Spartans graduate six seniors this year Brad Barber, Justin Alonzo, Ben Schoeneberger, Dan Bell, Brett Zeggil, and Josh Harris.
“They are just a group of really good hockey players,” Todd said. “Statistically they are the best senior class from a hockey standpoint from Castleton, their number speak for themselves.”
Castleton finishes their season with an overall record of 15-10-2, while Norwich improved to 23-2-1 and advanced the ECAC Championship game for the fourth year in a row, but fell to the Babson Beavers 2-1.
“Great kids, but just a rough year with injuries and some really tough losses,” Todd said. “We are not overly excited about the season but we battled through the tough times and at the end of the day it was a fun season.”