UTICA, N.Y. —Speed kills. Speed also wins you national championships.
Norwich University used speed to defeat Trinity, 4-1, to win their fourth NCAA Division III hockey championship.
“We have a lot of speed,” Norwich coach Mike McShane said. “We have a bigger ice surface at Norwich. Not Olympic size, but it’s a little bigger, so we recruit kids (for that) and we do try to emphasize it’s a fast game. It’s a fun game.”
“They transition well,” Trinity coach Mike Greason said. “They use their speed unbelievably well. When you have that skill and can put pucks on the tape, that allows you to play fast.”
Speed was a key factor to the Cadets’ second and third goals.
With the score tied 1-1 in the second, Todd Jackson picked up the puck on the right side by his own blue line and chipped it off the boards to blow by a defender. Rushing down the right side, his speed prevented the Trinity defender’s angle from cutting Jackson off.
Skating past the dot, Jackson let it rip over Alex Morin’s glove on the short side at 8:07.
“It changed the momentum,” McShane said. “They outplayed us in the second period, and Ty (Reichenbach) stood on his head. That goal lifted us.”
The score held till 6:19 of the third when Paul Russell used his speed for the clincher.
With the pick sent down the ice, Russell chased after it. Despite falling down, he beat Morin to the puck behind the net.
First, Russell went for the wraparound, but couldn’t control the puck. Instead, with Morin out of balance rushing back to the net, Russell put it through his five-hole for the 3-1 lead.
“That was an unbelievable goal,” McShane said. “I was thinking of not dressing him tonight. But he convinced me.”
After a scoreless first period, Norwich didn’t take long in the second to break the ice. Anthony Flaherty followed up a rebound produced by a Nick Pichette shot in front of the crease at 1:38.
Tyler Whitney tied the game for Trinity on a gorgeous tip of a Liam Feeney shot from the right point at 5:04 while on a power play. Whitney, standing near the post, deflected the puck perfectly into the near upper corner.
Then speed took over and Norwich took control of the game.
William Pelletier, the tournament’s most outstanding player, added an empty-net goal to seal the win with 25 seconds left.
After Braeden Ostepchuk got the start in net last night, Ty Reichenbach made 35 saves for the win tonight.
“They were determined not to leave anything behind,” McShane said about his team’s performance. “I had a good feeling about them all along, but there are so many good teams.”
Captain Tyler Piacentini said, “I am so proud of these guys.”
While Norwich had a dominating season, going 27-1-3, including a 25-game unbeaten streak, Trinity (21-7-3) started out slow and needed a strong second half to get to its second national title game in three years.
“There is a reason they have one loss this year and they’re the national champions,” Greason said of his opponent. “They’re a really good hockey team with a really good coach. All the clichés and catchphrases every coach uses, that’s what Norwich is. That’s why they’re here year in and year out.
“I thought we pushed back the best we could. I thought we played hard. We had some great grade A’s there at the end, but they weathered the storm.”
Trinity assistant captain Ethan Holdaway said, “One of the tightest groups I’ve been with.”
Greason added, “This is the best senior class in the history of Trinity.”
Ultimately, it was speed which determined the title game’s outcome. “That’s how we got Russell’s goal, Jackson’s goal, Pelletier the way he played,” McShane said.
Now, the championship trophy is speeding back to Vermont.