NORTHFIELD, Vt. – Over the past month the UMass-Boston Beacons have been one of the hottest teams in New England with a 7-2-1 record in their last 10 games coming into Friday night's game at Kreitzberg Arena.
The Beacons also had handed the Norwich men's ice hockey team its first loss of 2011-12 on Jan. 14, which gave the Cadets plenty of motivation heading into the game even though they had already wrapped up their 14th straight ECAC East regular season title the week before.
However, No. 2-ranked Norwich (20-2-1, 15-2-0 ECAC East) avenged the loss thanks to goals from Corey Hale (Montreal, Quebec) and Owen Carpino (Nashua, N.H.), along with some key timely saves from sophomore goalie Chris Czarnota (Wakefield, Mass.) to lead the Cadets to a 3-1 victory.
The two sides battled to a scoreless draw for nearly two full periods until Hale finally broke the ice with his second goal of the season at the 16:40 mark of the second period. Hale flipped a shot on net that UMass-Boston goalie Alex Scola couldn't control the rebound on. Hale followed up his own shot and back-handed the puck into a wide open right side of the net to give Norwich a 1-0 lead.
Just over a minute later Czarnota made possibly the save of the year when he dove back across the crease to rob UMass-Boston's Travis Daniel with a full extension glove save that brought the Kreitzberg faithful to their feet to give the Cadets' net minder a standing ovation.
Carpino kept the momentum rolling for Norwich by scoring his second goal of the season with just 35 seconds left in the period off a slap shot that stayed low to the ice and found its way through traffic and past Scola to increase the lead to 2-0.
Blake Forkey (Boca Raton, Fla.) started the play by sending a centering pass to a streaking Doug Lindensmith (Rochester Hills, Mich.) in the high slot. Lindensmith had his stick tied up by a UMass-Boston defender but he still managed to get a piece of the puck and it redirected right to Carpino's stick who let loose on a slap shot for the goal.
UMass-Boston (12-9-3, 8-8-1 ECAC East) cut into the deficit at the 11:46 mark of the third period when Daniel finally was able to get a puck past Czarnota off assists from John Houston and Anthony Fitti.
Daniel planted himself in the high slot and wristed a shot off the top of the cross bar and into the back of the net after Houston fed him from the side boards. Czarnota was caught scrambling on the shot after his stick got caught in the net and he was never able to set himself for Daniel's shot.
Norwich survived a flurry of UMass-Boston chances over the final nine minutes and finally junior forward Kyle Thomas was able to put the game away for good with an empty net goal off assists from Shawn Baker (Mont-Laurier, Quebec) and Lindensmith.
Czarnota made 25 saves for Norwich to improve to 8-1-0 on the year while Scola made 25 stops as well to drop to 5-4-2 on the season.
Before the start of the game, Baker was presented a $250 check for being named a 2012 Hockey Humanitarian Award finalist by Norwich Athletic Director Tony Mariano and head coach Mike McShane that he will donate to the University of Montreal Burn Center.
The Cadets extended their home unbeaten streak to 24 straight games with the win and they will look to close out an unbeaten regular season at Kreitzberg on Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. when they take on Babson in the regular season finale.
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Shawn Baker (center) is presented a check to donate to the University of Montreal Hospital Burn Center for being named a finalist for the 2012 Hockey Humanitarian Award. Also pictured are Norwich head coach Mike McShane (left) and Norwich Athletic Director Tony Mariano (right).