NORTHFIELD, Vt. – Freshman forward Scott Swanson (Wheaton, Ill.) scored his first collegiate hat trick to lead the Norwich University men's ice hockey team to a 6-3 victory over UMass Boston in a thrilling New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) Tournament semifinal game at Kreitzberg Arena on Saturday night.
Norwich (19-6-2, 13-3-2 NEHC) is now one win away from back-to-back NEHC Tournament championships and the Cadets will look to win their 13th tournament title next Saturday when they host Hobart College at 7 p.m. in Kreitzberg Arena.
Swanson scored the first two goals of the game for Norwich and then added another in the third period to complete the hat trick as he and Coby Downs (Montclair, Calif.) combined for eight points on the night to lead the Cadets' offense.
Downs had a goal and three assists to match Swanson's four points as the duo combined to down UMass Boston for the 43rd time in program history. NU now leads 43-10 in the all-time series with UMB.
Senior goalie Braeden Ostepchuk (Lethbridge, Alberta) made 30 saves on the night to improve to 12-5-2 and record his 51st win in his NU career, continuing to creep closer to Randy Hevey's program all-time record of 54.
Swanson gave Norwich a 1-0 lead just 1:32 into the game when he snapped a wrist shot into the top right corner of the net off a pass from Downs after he picked off a UMB pass in the defensive zone.
He made it 2-0 at the 5:16 mark when he sent a soft wrist shot in from the blue line that crossed up UMass Boston starting goalie Bailey MacBurnie and beat him over the glove. Downs and Cam Beecy (Stowe, Vt.) picked up the assists on the goal.
UMass Boston (17-10-0, 11-7-0 NEHC) struck back at the 8:48 mark with Garrison Sanipass scoring his 11th goal of the season on the power play off assists from Zack Bross and Nick Albano. Bross found Sanipass in the slot with a pass out of the corner and Sanipass dragged the puck over to his back hand before shoveling it past Ostepchuk into the open net.
Norwich regained the two-goal lead with Carter Cowlthorp (Boissevain, Manitoba) notching his fourth goal of the season off a pretty give and go with Kevin Salvucci (Plymouth, Mass.). Salvucci found Cowlthorp alone in the slot and he buried the puck into the left corner of the net for a 3-1 Norwich lead.
UMass Boston answered back again with Colin Larkin scoring his 24th goal of the season with a tap-in goal from the left side of the cage off a feed from Nolan Redler from behind the net. Albano notched his second assist of the game as well.
Downs pushed the lead back to 4-2 at the 12:21 mark with his 11th goal of the season coming off an assist from Swanson.
Swanson capped the hat trick at the 5:07 mark of the third period, finishing off a great set up from Downs and Connor Swystun (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan). Swanson one-timed a low shot into the right corner of the net off a feed from Downs in the high slot for his seventh goal of the season.
UMass Boston answered just 18 seconds later to cut the lead back to 5-3 with Daniel Nachbaur beating Ostepchuk five-hole off an assist from John Bonno at the 5:25 mark.
That's as close as UMass Boston would get thought as Ostepchuk and the NU defense held up from there. The Beacons' Sanipass hit the post late with the goalie pulled for their best chance but moments later Salvucci capped the victory with the empty net goal for his 10th of the season. He now sits just three points shy of 100 career points.
Norwich will now turn its attention to its arch-nemesis this season in NEHC-newcomer Hobart College. The Statesmen have been a thorn in the Cadets' side all year, sporting a 2-0-1 record against NU so far.
Hobart will make its third trip to Kreitzberg Arena next Saturday in search of its first NEHC title in its first year in the league.
The winner of Saturday's game will earn an automatic bid into the 12-team NCAA Tournament. The loser will have to hope for an at-large bid. Norwich's chances for an at-large bid are bleak as the Cadets were not ranked in the latest NCAA Regional Rankings released on Tuesday.