NORTHFIELD, Vt. – All season long Hobart College has been the Norwich University men's ice hockey team's kryptonite.
In its first season in the league, Hobart (18-5-5) went 3-0-1 against Norwich, including a 3-0 win on Saturday night to claim its inaugural New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) Championship in its first year in the league.
Hobart also became the first team in the 20-year history of Kreitzberg Arena to beat Norwich (19-7-2) at home three times in one season with Saturday's victory, setting the stage for what could become an epic league rivalry for years to come.
The two teams played to a scoreless battle for 40 minutes with both sides getting quality scoring chances. Hobart hit the post twice in the first two periods, while Norwich's Kevin Salvucci (Plymouth, Mass.) was stoned on a breakaway by Hobart senior goalie Frank Oplinger in the second period.
The save was one of Oplinger's 30 on the night as he picked up the shutout en route to being named the NEHC Tournament Most Valuable Player.
Hobart finally broke open the scoring at the 6:06 mark of the third period with Andrew Longo intercepting a Norwich clearing attempt and then he fended off a NU defender while cutting across the top of the slot before backhanding a shot past NU sophomore goalie Tom Aubrun (Chamonix, France).
Longo beat Aubrun to the blocker side for his eighth goal of the season and what would prove to be the game-winning goal.
Norwich had another chance to tie it at the midway point of the third period with Kale Kane (Kahnawake, Quebec) getting stoned on a breakaway with a sprawling pad save.
Hobart increased the lead to 2-0 at the 15:14 mark with Jordan Haskell collecting his own rebound off a pretty feed from behind the net by Andrew Silard to beat Aubrun for his ninth goal of the season.
Silard carried the puck behind the net and fed it out front to Haskell who was initially denied by Aubrun. However, he was first to the rebound and shoveled it past Aubrun to make it 2-0 Statesmen.
Lawson MacDougall added the dagger with 20 seconds to go with an empty-net goal from center ice off an assist from Jonas Toupal to seal the victory and punctuate Hobart's title.
Aubrun was magnificent all game long for Norwich, making 28 saves in the loss. His only two losses of the season came to Hobart and he finished the season with a 7-2 record. This was his first loss of the season in a game he started.
Aubrun was joined on the NEHC All-Tournament team by NU's Coby Downs (Montclair, Calif.). Haskell, Longo and Mike Faulkner were named to the squad for Hobart.
Norwich's season is likely over as the Cadets were ranked No. 10 in the latest NCAA East Region rankings, which will likely be too far away to secure one of the three at-large bids available to them.
The NCAA selection show will be on Monday, March 5 at 10:30 a.m.