Hockey's Comeback in NESCAC Semi-finals Falls Short with 5-3 Loss at Trinity

Recap courtesy of Trinity College

HARTFORD – The Trinity College Bantams opened up a 3-0 lead and held off a furious Jumbo comeback bid in a 5-3 win over visiting Tufts University in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Men's Ice Hockey Championship Semifinals this afternoon at Williams Rink in the Koeppel Community Sports Center.

Freshman Nick Abbene scored Tufts' first goal

Trinity, ranked #6 in the nation, improves to 20-5-1 with its fourth win in a row and will face Amherst College in the NESCAC Finals tomorrow at home at 2 p.m. The winner of tomorrow's game earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament which the Bantams won last season.

Tufts closes its year with a 10-10-6 mark.  The Jumbos were playing in the conference semi-finals for the second straight year.

Trinity will be making its fifth appearance in the NESCAC Finals, having won the title in 2003 and 2008.  Amherst defeated Middlebury, 4-2, in the other semifinal game at Trinity today to earn the chance to defend its 2015 conference crown.

Trinity closed out the opening period with a goal in the final second, after being stymied by Tufts sophomore goalie Nik Nugnes on its first 15 shots on goal, as sophomore forward Tyler Whitney scored a power-play marker from senior forward Michael Hawkrigg and sophomore forward Anthony Sabitsky just before the horn.

Sabitsky fed Trinity junior forward Ryan Cole on another goal 2:29 into the second period for the lone tally of the middle frame.  Trinity held a 30-14 shooting edge after two periods.

The third period was a wild one, beginning with a Bantam power-play goal by senior captain forward Elie Vered, who blasted the puck from the right wing past Nugnes after a diagonal pass by Ryan Cole from the top of the left face-off circle made it through the Jumbo defense 7:04 after the final intermission.

Tufts answered when rookie Nick Abbene scored from sophomore defenseman Dan Kelly 2:10 later. Nugnes stopped both Vered and Trinity junior forward Ethan Holdaway on one-on-one chances in the middle of the third before Trinity junior forward Brandon Cole converted an unassisted goal and the third power-play marker of the game for the Bantams with 1:54 remaining.

Tufts pulled Nugnes after the goal and it worked out as Jumbo junior forward Mike Leary scored with 41 seconds left and senior forward Dominic Granato did the same with 10 seconds on the clock.  Tufts senior captain Stewart Bell got off a clean look off the face-off, but Trinity sophomore goaltender Alex Morin made a clutch stop on the high shot and Bantam junior forward Sean Orlando scored an empty-netter from deep to account for the 5-3 final score.

Trinity finished with a 47-28 shooting edge, but just a 17-14 advantage in the final period.  Nugnes made 42 saves and Morin had 25, but Trinity scored on three of four power plays and the Jumbos came up empty on their two power-play opportunities.  Both Coles had a goal and an assist for the Bantams, while the Jumbos did not have a multiple-point scorer.