SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. - The Saint Michael's College men's ice hockey team fell to No. 1 Norwich University, 6-0, in a New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) contest on Saturday at Cairns Arena. With the Senior Day loss, the Purple Knights end the regular season 8-15-2 overall and 4-13-1 in the NEHC, while the Cadets improve to 20-1-3 and 15-1-1. The Cadets were ranked first in both Division III national polls this week.
For the Purple Knights, who held a 39-38 edge in shots, senior Justin McKenzie (Hawthorne, N.J./Don Bosco Prep) won 10 faceoffs in 22 attempts, and sophomore Chris Johnson (Duxbury, Mass./Pomfret School) made 32 saves. Johnson pushed his career saves total to 1,394, which moved him past Dave Donzanti '15 (1,366) into seventh in program history. His new total of 769 season saves moved him past Bill Heney '92 (753) for fifth in program history.
Six different players scored for the Cadets, as senior William Pelletier led the team in scoring with a goal and three assists while classmate Tyler Piacentini scored a goal and added two assists. Junior Kevin Salvucci had a goal and two assists of his own, and senior Cody Smith dished out two assists while junior Payton Baldillez and first-years Taeron Lewis and Ian Williams each scored once. Junior Braeden Ostepchuk made 18 saves in 30:10 of action before senior Ty Reichenbach made 21 saves in 29:50 of relief.
Saint Michael's earned a power play 6:25 into the first period, rattling off five shots that Ostepchuk saved. Senior Connor Mitchell (New Milford, Conn./Kent School) and sophomore Colin Biebel (Roxborough Park, Colo./Walpole Express) each had two of the attempts. Piacentini opened the scoring on a Norwich power play, as he gathered a rebound just above the right post and finished over Johnson's blocker-side shoulder at 9:09.
The Cadets took a 2-0 advantage just 30 seconds into the second, as Piacentini found Lewis open on a 2-on-1, and the first-year finished before Johnson could slide pipe to pipe. Johnson made a save while teammates blocked two shots during a man disadvantage called as the goal was scored, but nine seconds after the penalty ended, Norwich scored again. Cadets pinned the Purple Knights in their defensive zone with an effective forecheck, and Salvucci carried the puck into the top of the left circle and fired a shot to the middle of the left post and in at 2:39. Saint Michael's players had three shots in quick succession stopped a little after the 12:30 mark, with Biebel denied twice, and Mitchell saw back-to-back attempts denied around 17 minutes. Johnson made 14 saves in the period, and the Cadets took a 3-0 lead into the third.
Nearing the halfway point of the third, Pelletier sent a pass from the bottom left corner across the net to Williams, who finished with a one-timer to the top right corner at 11:07. On a power play just minutes later, Pelletier received a pass from Salvucci in the middle of the right circle, and the senior finished with a quick snap shot to the top left corner at 14:15. After Saint Michael's killed 3:03 of man-down time, which included a 57-second two-man disadvantage, Baldillez added an insurance marker at 18:41, as he beat Johnson past the blocker side with a shot from the center of the slot at 18:41.
Nine seniors were honored before the contest as part of Senior Day: McKenzie, Mitchell, Josh Dickman (Kapaa, Hawaii/Saint Paul's School), Danny Divis (Media, Pa./Minnesota Wilderness), Pat Houghton (Westford, Mass./Pomfret School), Stephen Inman (Coventry, R.I./Odessa Jackalopes), Caleb Lothian (Franklin, Vt./Rice Memorial Prep), Anthony Maiuri (Boxford, Mass./New Hampton School) and Shawn Morrow (East Greenbush, N.Y./Kent School).
Saint Michael's returns to action next Saturday when it hosts a Northeast-10 Conference Championship semifinal at 4 p.m. The second-seeded Purple Knights find out their opponent when NE10 play ends this evening.