(Release courtesy Southern Maine Sports Information)
GORHAM, Maine -- Senior Paul Russell (Andover, Mass.) snapped a 1-1 tie with 7:17 to play in regulation and the No. 2-ranked Norwich University men's ice hockey team held off the University of Southern Maine Huskies, 2-1, in New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) action Saturday at the USM Ice Arena.
The win extended the NEHC-leading Cadets' unbeaten streak to 12 games (11-0-1), and improved their record to 15-1-2 overall and 10-1-0 in NEHC play. The Huskies dropped their third straight one-goal decision to slip to 6-10-0 overall and 3-8-0 in conference games.
On a quick transition out of their own zone, seniors Cody Smith (Hudson, Mass.) and Tyler Piacentini (South Weymouth, Mass.) worked the puck to Russell streaking down the left wing side. Russell unloaded a low, hard shot from the top of the faceoff circle just inside the far post to beat USM junior goalie Kyle Shapiro. The goal was the sixth of the season for Russell.
With Shapiro out of the net in favor of the extra attacker, the Huskies pressured in the final 1:29 for a tying goal, but Norwich junior goalie Braeden Ostepchuk (Lethbridge, Alberta) and the Cadet defense stifled every USM offensive chance.
Freshman Jordan Hall gave USM a 1-0 lead with the only goal of the opening period. Hall collected a rare Norwich turnover at the blue line, carried the puck into the left-wing circle and beat Ostepchuk over the left shoulder for his second goal of the season. The unassisted marker came at 4:26 of the frame.
Shapiro protected the lead into the second period with the help of a high-stick call on an apparent tying goal at 11:53. The Cadets finally solved Shapiro with a beautiful passing play from junior Payton Baldillez (Arlington, Texas) and senior William Pelletier (St. Jean Chrysostome, Quebec) to senior Anthony Flaherty (South Boston, Mass.) who whipped a 20-foot wrist shot into the open side of the net for his eighth goal at 15:38.
Norwich finished the game with a 29-17 advantage in shots on goal. Shapiro had 27 saves before being lifted, while at the opposite end, Ostepchuk stopped 16 shots to remain undefeated (10-0-0).
Norwich returns home next Friday (7:00 p.m.) to take on New England College in a NEHC showdown between the top two teams in the standings.