PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. – Junior forward Payton Baldillez (Arlington, Texas) scored with 1:20 left in overtime to lift the Norwich University men's ice hockey team to a 3-2 win over long-time rival Middlebury College in the opening game of the 19th annual PrimeLink Great Northern ShootOut on Saturday.
Despite blowing a two-goal lead, Norwich (6-1-1, 5-1-0 NEHC) rallied to continue its recent dominance over Middlebury (0-3-0, 0-2-0 NESCAC) thanks to Baldillez's heroics. The Cadets are 9-1-2 in the last 12 meetings between the schools that have played 151 times since NU started hockey in 1909.
Baldillez scored the game-winning goal with a snipe over the blocker of Middlebury goalie Stephen Klein from the top of the faceoff circles in the 4-on-4 overtime session. The goal marked the first of the season for Baldillez and it came off an assist from freshman Christian Thompson (Windham, N.H.).
Norwich took a 1-0 lead with less than a second left in the first period when junior Kevin Salvucci (Plymouth, Mass) tipped a slap shot by Alec Brandrup (Rochester, Minn.) from the half boards to give the Cadets the momentum heading into the first intermission. Senior Anthony Flaherty (South Boston, Mass.) also notched an assist on the goal that came on a 5-on-3 power play advantage.
NU kept the momentum rolling early in the second period with rookie Trent Dillinger (Gillette, Wy.) becoming the second freshman to score a goal this year for the Cadets at the 3:15 mark of the second period. Salvucci picked up the primary assist on Dillinger's tally after his initial shot was saved and Dillinger was able to pot the rebound.
Middlebury worked its way back though, cutting the deficit to 2-1 at the 9:16 mark of the second period with Kamil Tkaczuk scoring off assists from Mitchell Allen and Brendan Dawson.
The Panthers tied the game at the 9:08 mark of the third period with Mark Lyman scoring off a rebound in front of the net where he roofed a shot past Braeden Ostepchuk (Lethbridge, Alberta) while falling to the ice. Matt Doherty and Danny Jacobs picked up assists on the Middlebury equalizer.
Ostepchuk made 31 saves to improve to 3-0-0 on the season. He made a terrific blocker save on a breakaway in the final minute of regulation to keep the game tied.
Klein stopped 33 shots for Middlebury. Norwich outshot Middlebury 36-33 with both teams scoring on a goal on the power play.
Norwich will look to win its record ninth PrimeLink Great Northern ShootOut title and first since 2012 when it takes on the winner of the last two ShootOut champions in Plattsburgh State (2015) and Concordia Minn. (2014). The Cadets will play at 7 p.m. in the championship game and will look to win the ShootOut for the first time at Plattsburgh.