NORTHFIELD, Vt. – Sophomore forward Todd Jackson (Holly Springs, N.C.) scored 3:07 into the second overtime to lift the top-seeded Norwich University men's ice hockey team to a dramatic 2-1 come-from-behind victory over No. 8 seed Castleton University on Saturday night at Kreitzberg Arena.
Jackson's first goal since Jan. 30 was his seventh of the season and came in a similar fashion to the goal he scored in the 2017 NCAA Division III National Championship win over Trinity that broke a 1-1 tie in the second period.
Jackson took an outlet pass from TJ Dockery (Lockport, N.Y.) and then sped down the right wing on a partial breakaway. Jackson cut in towards the net and roofed a perfect shot over the glove and off the right post and cross bar to help the Cadets stave off an upset minded Castleton squad in the NEHC Quarterfinals.
Norwich (18-6-2, 13-3-2 NEHC) ended Castleton's season for the seventh straight year with the victory, but it didn't come easy as the Spartans frustrated the Cadets all night and nearly stole the monumental upset.
Castleton took a 1-0 lead midway through the first period and led for over 40 minutes of game play until junior defenseman Cam Beecy (Stowe, Vt.) finally scored the equalizer at the 11:31 mark of the third period.
Castleton (7-16-3, 3-14-1 NEHC) took the lead at the 11:05 mark when Dom Kuziak capitalized on a NU neutral zone turnover and beat sophomore goalie Tom Aubrun with a wrist shot through a screen to give the Spartans a 1-0 lead that they would cling to for a large portion of the game.
Despite outshooting Castleton 13-3 through the first period and 8-3 in the second period, the Cadets could not solve Castleton senior goalie Ryan Mulder and the Spartan defense.
Finally, Beecy broke through though with a wrist shot that Mulder got a piece of, but the puck rolled up and over his glove and fell behind him before trickling into the back of the net. The goal was Beecy's first of the season and just the second of his career. He had played in just four games coming into Saturday night. Coby Downs (Montclair, Calif.) picked up the assist after sliding the puck over to Beecy entering the offensive zone.
Neither side was able to score for the rest of regulation or in the first overtime until Jackson's heroics took over to send the home crowd home happy.
Ryan Mulder played phenomenal for Castleton in his final game in the Spartan uniform, stopping 49 shots. Aubrun made seven saves for Norwich to improve to 7-1-0 on the season and remain perfect in games he has started in his career.
Norwich will now face fourth-seeded UMass Boston in the NEHC playoffs for the first time since the 2008-09 season when the Beacons upset Norwich 1-0 in the first round of the NEHC Tournament. UMass Boston beat New England College 5-3 in their quarterfinal. No. 2 Hobart will face No. 3 Babson in the other semifinal game after Babson survived to beat Skidmore 3-2 in double overtime.
Norwich and UMass Boston will meet at 7 p.m. in Kreitzberg Arena on Saturday, Feb. 24. The two semifinal winners will meet in the NEHC Championship on Saturday, March 3 at the highest remaining seed with the NEHC automatic bid on the line.