NORTHFIELD, Vt. – The Norwich University men's ice hockey team had its 25-game unbeaten streak and 22-game home unbeaten streak snapped in a 3-2 season-opening loss to Salve Regina on Friday night at Kreitzberg Arena.
Salve Regina went up 3-0 and then held on for dear life in the final period to upset the No. 1/2-nationally ranked Cadets and spoil the 2017 NCAA Division III National Championship banner-raising ceremony.
Jack Billings, Evan Schmidbauer and Danny Eurzione each scored goals for the Seahawks, while Blake Wojtala made 37 saves to lead Salve Regina to the victory in the first-ever meeting between the two programs.
Norwich got third period power-play goals from senior captain Alec Brandrup (Rochester, Minn.) and sophomore forward Todd Jackson (Holly Springs, N.C.), but the Cadets couldn't quite complete the comeback in the final 20 minutes.
Billings gave Salve Regina a 1-0 lead at the 9:17 mark, scoring on a 2-on-1 off an assist from Pat Thompson. Thompson fed Billings a pass from the right wing and Billings buried the puck into the net for his first goal of the season.
After a slew of penalties midway through the period, Salve Regina capitalized on a power play with Schmidbauer jamming in a puck on the door step of the crease that bounced off the end boards from a shot by Nick Cyr at the point. Dylan Carabia also picked up an assist on the goal to give the Seahawks a 2-0 lead.
Salve Regina outshot Norwich 14-10 in the opening period. The Cadets built some momentum in the second period, carrying the play for large portions and outshooting Salve Regina 18-12 in the period. However, NU couldn't solve Wojtala.
Salve Regina stretched the lead to 3-0, capitalizing on a NU defensive zone mistake with Eruzione collecting a loose puck in the neutral zone after a defense to defense pass bounced off the side boards and right onto Eruzione's stick. He corralled the puck and skated into the zone, snapping a quick wrist shot from the top of the slot that bounced off the inside of the right post and into the net.
Norwich finally got on the board at the 8:03 mark of the third period with a 5-on-3 power play goal by Brandrup off assists from Connor Evangelista (Wakefield, Mass.) and Kevin Salvucci (Plymouth, Mass.). Brandrup and Evangelista criss-crossed at the top of the zone and then Evagelista slid the puck back to Brandrup at the left point, who then one-timed a shot past Wojtala, beating him near side to cut the deficit to 3-1.
Just 1:36 later Jackson scored his first of the season with another power play goal off an assist from Matt Burchill (Marshfield, Mass.). Burchill ripped a shot from the point that deflected off traffic in front and then Jackson crashed from the left side of the cage to poke the rebound past Wojtala and make it 3-2 Salve Regia.
Norwich continued to throw everything at the net in search of the equalizer, including pulling Ostepchuk for the final minute. However, NU couldn't get the third one.
Senior captain Braeden Ostepchuk (Lethbridge, Alberta) had his 16-game winning streak snapped, making 26 saves in the defeat. His last loss came in the 2015-16 season in the New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) Tournament Semifinals.
Norwich outshot Salve Regina 39-29. The Cadets were 2-for-7 on the power play, while Salve Regina was 1-for-3.
Norwich opens league play next weekend when it hosts UMass Boston and Babson at 7 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday respectively.