NORTHFIELD, Vt. – The Norwich University men's ice hockey team took a big step towards wrapping up its 18th New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) regular season title in the last 19 years with a 4-3 win over second-place New England College on Friday night at Kreitzberg Arena.
No. 2-nationally ranked Norwich (16-1-2, 11-1-0 NEHC) extended its unbeaten streak to 13 straight games with the victory as senior defenseman Cody Smith (Hudson, Mass.) led the offense with four assists.
Smith had a part in every Norwich goal and also blocked a team-leading four shots to continue his standout final year in the Maroon & Gold. He is now tied for the Division III lead in assists with 20 on the season.
Senior William Pelletier (St. Jean Chrysostome, Quebec) also chipped in with a goal and an assist. His goal at the 15:36 mark of the third period would prove to be the game-winning goal after NEC scored a late goal to cut the deficit back to one.
Norwich opened the scoring at the 12:40 mark of the first period with senior captain Ty Piacentini (South Weymouth, Mass.) scoring his 11th goal of the season, ripping a wrist shot into the top left hand corner of the net from the high slot. Paul Russell (Andover, Mass.) had the primary assist after feeding Piacentini from the far half boards. Smith also had the secondary assist after starting the play with an outlet pass.
NEC (11-7-0, 7-5-0 NEHC) answered back at the 8:11 mark of the second period with a delayed penalty power play goal by Bryce Nielsen. Connor Fries and William Risse notched assists on the goal to tie the game at 1-1.
The Pilgrims took advantage of another power play, this time scoring late on a five-minute major penalty for boarding with Adam Zollner sliding a rebound behind NU goalie Ty Reichenbach (Billings, Mont.) from behind the net after an initial shot by Nielsen sailed wide. Andreas Zollner picked up the second assist on the goal to help NEC take a 2-1 lead at the 12:37 mark.
Alec Brandrup (Rochester, Minn.) tied the game back up at the 16:34 mark of the second period with a blast from the point on the power play that redirected off a NEC player's stick in front of the net and beat Brett Kilar to the right side of the cage. Nick Pichette (Massena, N.Y.) and Smith picked up assists.
NU took the lead back less than two minutes later with Ian Williams (Milestone, Saskatchewan) rifling a wrist shot snipe into the top right corner of the net off assists from Pelletier and Smith to make it 3-2 Cadets at the 18:11 mark.
Pelletier added the big insurance goal working a give and go with Kevin Salvucci (Plymouth, Mass.) and the blasting a one-timer into the net from the top of the slot to make it 4-2 Norwich at the 15:36 mark of the third period.
NEC cut the lead back to 4-3 with a terrific individual effort by Patrick DeBlois, taking the puck coast to coast and beating Reichenbach with a wrist shot from the top of the slot with 1:55 left in the game.
However, that's as close as NEC would get as the Cadets withstood any additional pressure and were aided by a late boarding penalty that put the Pilgrims shorthanded for the remainder of the game.
Reichenbach made 20 saves to improve to 6-1-2 on the season. Kilar made 27 saves to fall to 10-7-0 on the year.
Norwich is now on its longest unbeaten streak since the 2010-11 season when it went 14 straight games without a loss.
The Cadets host Saint Anselm for the final time in NEHC play on Saturday at 4 p.m. The Hawks are in their final year in the NEHC as the conference is moving forward as a Division III-only league beginning in 2017-18.