NORTHFIELD, Vt. – In its first season in the New England Hockey Conference (NEHC), Hobart College is quickly becoming the Norwich University men's ice hockey team's kryptonite.
Hobart (14-5-5, 11-3-3 NEHC) remained unbeaten against Norwich (17-6-1, 13-3-1 NEHC) and prevented the Cadets from clinching their 19th league regular season title in the last 20 years with a 5-4 victory in a thriller at Kreitzberg Arena.
Norwich took a 1-0 lead at the 3:49 mark with Jordan Hall (Anchorage, Alaska) scoring his ninth goal of the season off an assist from Alec Brandrup (Rochester, Minn.). Hall collected his own rebound and slammed the puck into the net behind Hobart's Frank Oplinger to give the Cadets the early edge.
However, Hobart methodically worked its way back into the game and tied things up at the 17:15 mark of the first period with Will Harrison scoring off an assist from Andrew Silard.
The Statesmen quickly seized momentum at the start of the second period with Ryan Lynch scoring just 22 seconds into the period on a controversial goal. Lynch sent a wrist shot in from the blue line that hit off the crossbar and was ruled to have crossed the line by the official despite the goal light never coming on and the puck sitting outside the crease. Vincent Russo and Matt Pizzo picked up the assists on the goal.
Less than a minute later, Hobart made it 3-1 with Lawson MacDougall scoring on a rebound in front of the net after Braeden Ostepchuk (Lethbridge, Alberta) made an initial save on Julien Denicourt and Jonas Toupal.
Norwich got a goal back at the 9:32 mark with Kale Kane (Kahnawake, Quebec) sniping a shot off the crossbar and into the back of the net off assists from Carter Cowlthorp (Boissevain, Manitoba) and Brandrup.
Hobart didn't let the Cadets stay close for long though as Tanner Shaw scored on the power play at the 11:38 mark with a perfect wrist shot into the low-right side of the net leaving Ostepchuk no chance. Toupal and Merrill notched the assists for the Statesmen as they took a 4-2 lead.
Norwich came storming back in the third period with two goals 1:27 apart by Taeron Lewis (Winnipeg, Manitoba) and Kevin Salvucci (Plymouth, Mass.). Lewis redirected an initial shot by Jake Erickson (Stillwater, Minn.) through the five-hole of Oplinger to made it 4-3 with his fourth goal of the year.
Salvucci scored on a one-timer blast off a faceoff win by Cowlthorp from the side of the right faceoff circle to tie the game up with his ninth of the year and send Kreitzberg Arena into a frenzy.
However, Hobart took the lead for good at the 13:31 mark with Longo scoring off a faceoff win by Harrison for the game's final goal.
Norwich pulled Tom Aubrun (Chamonix, France) for an extra skater with a little over a minute left, however a penalty forced Aubrun back to the net and killed the Cadets' chances of equalizing.
Aubrun was the tough-luck loser for his first collegiate loss. He made 12 saves in relief of Ostepchuk but was saddled with the loss after NU was able to tie it.
Hobart outshot Norwich 29-28 in the game. Oplinger made 24 saves to improve to 6-2-3 on the season.
Hobart became the first team since 2012-13 and just the second team in Kreitzberg Arena's 20-year history to defeat Norwich twice in the same season on home ice. Babson was the only other team to do it. Friday night's loss also marked the Cadets' fifth loss at Kreitzberg this season, which is the most ever since it was built in 1998-99.
Norwich will still be able to clinch the regular season title and the No. 1 seed for the NEHC playoffs by garnering at least one point on Saturday when it hosts Skidmore at 4 p.m. on Senior Day.