UTICA, N.Y. – The Norwich University men's ice hockey team advanced to the 2017 NCAA Division III Men's Ice Hockey Championship game with a 5-4 overtime victory over Adrian College on Friday night in the national semifinals at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
The Cadets (26-1-3) set a new program record with the victory, extending their unprecedented unbeaten streak to 24 straight games, surpassing the 2000 national championship team's run of 23 straight.
Williams flipped a shot toward the net from the right corner that bounced off of Adrian goalie Kevin Entmaa's pad and trickled just inside the right post to punch the Cadets' ticket into the title game. William Pelletier (St. Jean Chrysostome, Quebec) and Connor Evangelista (Wakefield, Mass.) picked up the assists on the goal. Pelletier carried the puck into the zone and dropped it to Evangelista at the right point. Evangelista sent it down to Williams who took care of the rest for his ninth goal of the season and none bigger in his rookie career.
Norwich will now face the 2015 NCAA Division III national champion Trinity College, who advanced to the title game for the second time in the last three years with a 3-2 win over St. Norbert in the first semifinal game on Friday.
Freshman defenseman Jake Erickson (Stillwater, Minn.) doubled his season goal total, scoring twice to lead the Norwich offense after lighting the lamp just once in his previous 26 games.
Pelletier opened the scoring at the 14:53 mark of the first period with blistering wrist shot from the top of the right faceoff circle that beat Entmaa over the glove to put the Cadets up 1-0. Brian Rowland (Waltham, Mass.) and Williams picked up the assists on Pelletier's 17th goal of the season.
Adrian (20-7-2) didn't take long to answer back as the Bulldogs leveled the score at 1-1 on a tipped shot by Bryan Yim that trickled between NU junior goalie Braeden Ostepchuk's (Lethbridge, Alberta) legs to beat him five-hole. Austin Rust's initial shot was deflected by Yim in the middle of the slot for his 14th goal of the season.
Adrian answered just 1:21 later with Mathew Thompson scoring on the power play off a beautiful triangle passing setup from Taylor McCloy and Kyle Brothers. Brothers passed the puck to McCloy, who popped into the middle of the slot after playing in front of the net. McCloy immediately sent the puck down to Thompson at the left side of the crease. Thompson was all alone and initially missed on a one-timer. However, he collected his own misfire and still had time to slam the puck into the net before the NU defense and Ostepchuk could recover.
Norwich regained the lead at the 18:21 mark though as Erickson clanked a shot off the cross bar and into the back of the net with a wrist shot through traffic for his second goal of the game and third of the season. Williams and Kevin Salvucci (Plymouth, Mass.) tallied assists on the goal.
Salvucci gave the Cadets their first two-goal lead of the game just 53 seconds into the third period with a slapper from the top of the left faceoff circle that beat Entmaa over the glove to the upper right corner of the net for his team-leading 21st goal of the season.
However, Adrian would not go away as the Bulldogs tallied twice just over a minute apart at the 14:23 and 15:47 mark of the third period to knot the game back up at 4-4. Trevor Boyd scored again on the power play, while Joey Colatarci scored the tying goal.
Ostepchuk made 32 saves to improve to 16-0-0 on the season. Entmaa made 24 saves to finish the season at 15-7-2. Adrian outshot Norwich 36-29.
Norwich and Trinity last met in the 2016 Northfield Savings Bank Holiday Tournament championship with the Bantams scoring a 5-4 overtime victory in a thriller at Kreitzberg Arena. Norwich leads the all-time series with Trinity 18-6 as the two teams are former ECAC East/NESCAC Interlock rivals.