Courtesy of Trinity Sports Information
HARTFORD, Conn. - At 12:57 of overtime hockey, Trinity captain Ryan Pfeffer fired a wrist shot that snuck past Hamilton goalie Anthony Tirabassi and into the back of the net as the Bantams stormed the ice to celebrate a 2-1 overtime victory over the Continentals in the NESCAC Semifinals at the Koeppel Center on Saturday evening.
Trinity improves to 17-3-5 on the year and moves on to Sunday's championship game against Amherst at 2 p.m. The Bantams and Mammoths will square off after Amherst outlasted Wesleyan, 1-0, in double-overtime in the day's earlier semifinals. The Bantams have won eight straight games and have not lost in their last 15 as they look to capture their third NESCAC title in the last four seasons.
Just 14 seconds into the opening period, Trinity jumped ahead to a 1-0 lead. Nicholas Polsinelli sent a pass up ice to Mark Knowlton. Knowlton rifled a wrist shot toward the net that deflected off of the glove of Tirabassi and into the back of the goal.
Hamilton had a good chance at the equalizer with just over 10 minutes to go in the period. With 10:47 showing, Sterling Bray had a clean look at Trinity Tedy Loughborough, who made an initial stop. Bray got a shot off on the rebound but Loughborough once again shut the door, smothering the puck to end the threat.
The Bantams were whistled for a hooking penalty late in the period which gave the Continentals a man-up opportunity. Trinity’s penalty kill unit did its job in front of Loughborough, who made a pair of clutch saves in succession during the two-minute disadvantage, to keep the lead at 1-0 after one.
A Trinity penalty just before the period handed Hamilton a power play which rolled over into the second period. The Continentals took advantage of the opportunity when Jon Stickel redirected a shot from Stephen Cochrane into the back of the net to even the score at 1-1.
Hamilton was called for a hooking penalty at the 12:32 mark which gave the Bantams a skater advantage of their own, but Tirabassi and the Continental defense held strong to keep the game tied at 1-1. Both teams were called for concurrent penalties with under a minute in the period which made it 4-on-4 hockey to start the third period.
Nothing came from the two minutes of 4-on-4, but Trinity nearly took the lead just seconds after the penalties expired. Taggart Corriveau found himself 1-on-1 with Tirabassi, dragging the puck across the front of the crease for a shot, but Tirabassi stuck his left leg pad out and kicked the puck away from harm.
With 15:15 left, the Bantams were gifted another power play opportunity thanks to an interference call on Hamilton. After an errant Trinity pass in Hamilton’s zone, Bray picked off the puck and raced down ice looking to find a short-handed goal. Bray fired a wrister on net but Loughborough came up with the save.
After a mad scramble in front of Trinity’s net with less than two minutes left, Bray had a clean look at the net with Loughborough scrambling to re-position after making a previous save. Bray fired a shot but Trinity senior Charlie Zuccarini laid out in front of it to block it and allow the Bantams to regain possession.
Threatening in the attacking zone with under a minute to play, Hamilton was called for a tripping penalty which put the Bantams back on the power play. Trinity was not able to come up with the game-winner in regulation but entered the first overtime period with 1:27 left on the man-advantage.
The Bantams sent a handful of shots towards the net at the beginning of overtime but both were blocked by Blayne Oliver as the visitors killed off the penalty successfully. Three minutes later, the Bantams nearly won it when first-year Lucas Michaud got a shot off on a rebound from a shot by Corriveau, but Tirabassi came up clutch with the back-to-back saves. Less than two minutes later, a streaking Jordi Jefferson had a clear shooting lane on the other end of the ice and fired a one-timer toward the goal, but Loughborough returned the favor and stoned the attempt.
Sophomore Michael Grande nearly scored with eight minutes on the clock in the extra session as he tried to stuff the puck in the net on a wrap-around from behind the goal, but the puck hit the pipe and bounced away. The rebound led to a skate out which resulted in Loughborough coming up big once again, saving an attempt off the stick of Jason Brochu.
Pfeffer connected on his third game-winner of the season with 7:03 showing on the clock in overtime. Trinity's Dylan Healey won a faceoff in the Hamilton zone. Assistant captain Liam Feeney came up with it before giving it back to Healey who slipped a pass from near the point to Pfeffer, positioned at the opposite faceoff circle. Pfeffer faked a shot before sending a low line drive off the leg pad of Tirabassi and across the goal-line for the win.