NORTHFIELD, Vt. – Junior forward Kevin Salvucci (Plymouth, Mass.) registered his first collegiate hat trick to lead the Norwich University men's hockey team to a 5-2 win over Castleton University in a wild New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) Tournament Semifinal game at Kreitzberg Arena on Saturday night.
Salvucci scored twice less than a minute apart in the later stages of the third to stretch a 2-1 lead into a 4-1 lead and lead the Cadets to a NEHC Championship game berth. NU will host New England College on Saturday, March 4 at 7 p.m. in Kreitzberg Arena as it looks to claim its 13th NEHC title.
The top-seeded Cadets (22-1-3, 16-1-1 NEHC) extended their unbeaten streak to 20 straight games and tied the 2010 National Championship squad for the second longest streak of all time. NU also ended Castleton's season for the sixth straight season with the victory, including four times in the semifinal round.
Norwich took a 1-0 lead at the 6:53 mark of the first period with Ian Williams (Milestone, Saskatchewan) scoring on a rebound after William Pelletier's (St. Jean Chrysostome, Quebec) shot was saved by Mulder.
Salvucci scored his first of the night at the 14:36 mark of the first period with beautiful redirection into the top right corner of the net on a shot by Williams from the point. Tyler Piacentini (South Weymouth, Mass.) picked up the second assist.
Castleton (11-10-6, 9-5-4 NEHC) cut into Norwich's lead at the 5:30 mark of the second period, pushing a shot under Braeden Ostepchuk (Lethbridge, Alberta) to cut the deficit it 2-1. Kevin Rosset and Troy Taylor picked up assists. Ostepchuk made 17 of 19 saves to improve to 14-0-0 on the season.
Salvucci took over in the third period with the two back-to-back goals just 57 seconds apart. His second of the night 16th of the season was a goal of the year candidate after he stickhandled through a Castleton defender and then roofed a shot off the inside of the right post and off the left post and into the back of the net. Alec Brandrup (Rochester, Minn.) picked up the assist after dropping a pass back to Salvucci with speed in the neutral zone.
He finished off the hat trick at the 13:47 mark of the third period with a goal on a rebound after Pelletier's initial shot was saved.
Castleton got one back with the goalie pulled as Kurt Johnson picked up his fifth goal of the season off assists from Caleb Fizer and Gustav Carlsson to make it 4-2 at the 16:33 mark.
However, that's as close as Castleton would get and Pelletier added a final nail in the coffin with a second to go for an empty netter and his 16th goal of the season.
Norwich outshot Castleton 42-19 and went 2-for-6 on the power play. Mulder made 37 saves for Castleton.
Norwich and New England College will meet in the NEHC Championship for the first time since 2006. NU beat NEC 5-2 at Kreitzberg Arena.