MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – The top-ranked Norwich men's ice hockey team scored three power-play goals to turn an early 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 lead en route to a 5-2 victory over No. 10 Elmira in the championship game of the 14th annual PrimeLink Great Northern ShootOut on Saturday at Middlebury's Chip Kenyon '85 Arena.
With the victory, the Cadets (6-0-0, 4-0-0 ECAC East) captured their record seventh PrimeLink title and second in the last three years.
Junior forward Pier-Olivier Cotnoir (Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec) was named the tournament Most Valuable Player after leading the Cadets' comeback charge with two power play goals coming 1:51 apart to give Norwich a 3-1 lead that it would never relinquish.
The goals came early and often in the first period with Elmira's Darcy Vaillancourt scoring on the first shot of the game just 41 seconds in. Vaillancourt scored his second goal of the season after being left all alone in front of the net after a Norwich defensive breakdown.
The Soaring Eagles' John Clewlow won a battle along the boards and found Vaillancourt wide open in front of the crease after both Norwich defensemen got caught along the boards. Vaillancourt corralled the pass by Clewlow from behind the goal and beat Norwich goalie Parker Carroll with a quick wrist shot to give Elmira a 1-0 lead.
However, Norwich battled back thanks to Elmira's inability to stay out of penalty box. The Soaring Eagles took five straight penalties and Norwich converted on three of them to take a 3-1 lead.
Doug Lindensmith (Sterling Heights, Mich.) leveled the score at one with a power play goal at the 13:05 mark of the first period when he jammed home a loose rebound at the far post after Travis Janke's initial shot hit the left post and kicked out. Janke (Swift Current, Sask.) picked up the first of his three primary assists on the night on his way to being named to the All-Tournament team.
Just 2:19 later Cotnoir gave Norwich its first lead by blasting a one timer past Elmira goaltender Darren McDonald from the high slot off a feed from Janke to make it 2-1.
The Janke to Cotnoir connection hooked up again in nearly an exact replica of the Cadets' second goal to make it 3-1 at the 17:17 mark of the period. Janke fed a waiting Cotnoir from the top of the left face-off circle and Cotnoir blasted a one-timer from the point over the glove of McDonald to the top right upper corner of the net.
Elmira (5-3-0, 4-0-0 ECAC West) cut the deficit back down to one after Clewlow split the Norwich defense off an outlet pass from Martin Lee and then deked Carroll on his forehand before switching over to his backhand and flipping the puck into a wide-open net.
Norwich dominated the shots in the first period 18-3.
After all the fireworks in the opening 20 minutes, neither side was able to score in the second period. Elmira outshot the Cadets 8-4, but Carroll stood tall to keep Norwich on top with the help of a post and Francois Gatien (Boucherville, Quebec).
Elmira's Martin Lee rang a slap shot off the left post from the point on an Elmira power play chance at the 3:59 mark of the period and Gatien blocked a shot on the goal line after Carroll made an initial save and was caught away from the crease.
Junior forward Kyle Thomas (Waltham, Mass.) gave Norwich a two-goal lead again at the 9:29 mark of the third period when he followed up his own shot and beat McDonald for his third point of the night. Thomas took a wrist shot from the top of the left circle that McDonald blocked but couldn't control rebound. Thomas never stopped skating and slipped in behind the Elmira defense, skated around a diving McDonald and slid the puck just inside the right post to make it 4-2 Norwich.
Freshman defenseman Corey Hale (Montreal, Quebec) added an empty netter in the final minute of the game to seal the 5-2 victory for the Cadets. Hale was named the Rookie of the Tournament after tallying an assist in Friday's 3-0 win over Plattsburgh on top of playing sound defense all weekend long.
Carroll turned aside 22 shots to pick up his fifth victory of the season. McDonald made 24 saves for Elmira and dropped to 4-3 on the year.
Norwich improved to 4-1 all-time against Elmira in the two team's first meeting since the 2010 NCAA quarterfinals when the Cadets tied the game with 46 seconds left and then won in the opening minutes of overtime.
The Cadets return to action on Friday for the highly anticipated showdown against in-state rival and third-ranked Castleton at 7 p.m. at Kreitzberg Arena.
2011 PrimeLink Great Northern ShootOut All-Tournament Team
F. Travis Janke, Norwich
F. Charlie Strauss, Middlebury
D. Martin Lee, Elmira
D. Paul Puglisi, Plattsburgh
G. Darren McDonald, Elmira
MVP - Pier-Olivier Cotnoir, Norwich
Rookie - Corey Hale, Norwich
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