UTICA, N.Y. – The Norwich University men's ice hockey team won its fourth NCAA Division III Ice Hockey National Championship with a 4-1 win over Trinity (Conn.) on Saturday night at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
The Cadets (27-1-3) got goals from seniors Anthony Flaherty (South Boston, Mass.), Paul Russell (Andover, Mass.) and tournament Most Valuable Player William Pelletier (St. Jean Chrysostome, Quebec), as well as freshman Todd Jackson (Holly Springs, N.C.) to lead the offense.
Meanwhile senior Ty Reichenbach (Billings, Mont.) made a NU career-high 35 saves to lift Norwich to its first national title since 2010 and punctuate the season with a program-record 25-game unbeaten streak. NU's last and only loss of the season came on Nov. 18 in a 3-2 overtime decision to Skidmore.
The win capped off an incredible resurgent season for the 10-player senior class that bowed out in the New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) Semifinals last year and failed to win the league regular season for the first time in 18 years. Norwich is now a four-time NCAA Division III National Champion, having won titles in 2000, 2003 and 2010. The Cadets are now tied for the third most D-III national championships with St. Norbert. Only Middlebury (eight) and UW-Stevens Point (five) have more titles.
After a bit of a feeling out and relatively evenly played first period, the Cadets didn't take long to strike first blood in the second frame.
Norwich finally opened the scoring at the 1:38 mark of the second period with Flaherty scoring his 12th goal of the season off an assist from Pichette.
Pichette gloved the puck at the blue line after Trinity failed to clear it out. Pichette wheeled in from the right wing and got a 360 spin-o-rama shot off that Morin made a leg pad save on. However, the rebound bounced out to Flaherty crashing the net from the left side and he slipped it behind Morin to make it 1-0 Norwich.
Trinity (21-7-3) came roaring back though and nearly tied it up just under two minutes later with a great scoring chance for Sean Orlando, but he couldn't dig out a pass from the left side in his skates and didn't get all of a shot he pushed just wide right.
The Bantams finally did capitalize at the 5:04 mark of the second period with Tyler Whitney scoring his 13th goal of the year on a pretty tip off an initial shot from the point by Liam Feeney on the power play. Whitney tipped the puck up and over the glove of Reichenbach for the goal from the right side of the crease. Ryan Cole notched the second assist on the goal after feeding the puck back to Feeney at the point.
Norwich regained the lead at the 8:07 mark of the second period with Jackson using his blazing speed up the right wing and then sniping a quick wrist shot past the glove of Morin to beat him short side off the post for his seventh goal of the season. Dockery picked up the only assist on the goal after he chipped the puck up off the boards after digging it out of the corner. Jackson corralled it and then chipped the puck up off the boards himself to speed around the Trinity defender and create a breakaway for himself.
The biggest turning point of the third period came at the 5:45 mark when Reichenbach made a sprawled out pad save while fully extended to rob Barclay Gammill on the doorstep.
Reichenbach's save paved the way for another senior to step up in a big moment just over a minute after the save.
Russell extended lead to 3-1, capitalizing on a misplay by Morin behind the net, stripping the puck from him, curling around the left side and firing a wrist shot between the legs for his eighth goal of the season.
Reichenbach continued to come up big with another save on a partial breakaway, robbing Andy Chugg for another spectacular save. He also made the game-clinching save with 1:30 to go, diving across the crease to glove the puck and rob a Trinity player on top of the crease.
Pelletier added the punctuation mark at the 19:35 mark with an empty-net goal off an assist from Kevin Salvucci (Plymouth, Mass.) for his 18th of the season.
Pelletier, Jake Erickson (Stillwater, Minn.) and Reichenbach were all named to the All-Tournament team.
Trinity outshot Norwich 36-35. Morin made 31 saves in the loss for Trinity. Reichenbach's NU career-high of 35 saves finished his season with an 11-1-3 record.