After an exciting 4-1 semifinal victory against Stonehill College on Feb. 18 in the Northeast 10 semi-final game, the St. Michael’s College Men’s Hockey team came up just short Saturday losing 3-2 in overtime in the Northeast-10 Conference Championship game to fourth ranked Assumption College.
St. Michael’s players were in firm control for most of the game as they held a 67-30 advantage in shots, but Assumption goalie Nick Commesso had a phenomenal game as he made 65 saves and didn’t allow a goal after the first period.
The Knights started strong, as Colin Biebel, ’19, scored the opening goal just 3:37 into the first period off a rebound in front of the net, assisted by Jack Ouellette, ’19, and Connor Mitchell, ’17.
The Knights continued to pressure Commesso after the initial score, as he was forced to make an outstanding save on a breakaway. However, the Knights’ effort paid off when Biebel tallied his second goal of the game assisted by Mitchell & Danny Divis, ’17. At the conclusion of the opening period, the Knights outshot Assumption 26-6.
In the second period, Assumption drew within one goal after scoring at 14:35. Divis nearly scored the third goal of the game for the Knights, only to have his shot blocked by an Assumption player at 16:20. The Knights also had a goal taken off the board, when goalie interference was called after a shot by Josh Dickman, ’17, found the back of the net.
“I was expecting the puck to come to me when I came out of the [penalty] box. I didn’t see what happened in front of the net, I just looked up and saw an open net. Even after they took the goal off the board, we still felt like we had the game,” Dickman said. Knights goalie Chris Johnson, ’19, made several impressive saves during the period to maintain the lead, including a key shorthanded save at 3:17 of the stanza.
At the start of the third period, both teams came agonizingly close to scoring. Mitchell rang a shot off the post at the four minute mark, and an Assumption shot banged off the post at 5:10 of the period. With the pressure on the St. Michael’s defensive end mounting, the Knights called a timeout. Off the ensuing faceoff, Assumption scored on a shot from the left point through a screen to tie the game at 7:17. In the closing minutes of regulation, Assumption nearly scored the winner, as a shot hit the post with 1:30 remaining. Johnson also made a terrific play coming out of his net to clear a puck from the zone in the closing seconds, sending the game into overtime.
In sudden death overtime, both teams came out with high intensity knowing their seasons rested on the next goal. The Knights successfully killed off a penalty in the opening minutes of the extra period, and Biebel nearly completed his hat trick just before the four minute mark only to be denied by the Assumption netminder. On the ensuing counterattack, Assumption scored the game winning goal. The Knights only allowed only a single shot, albeit the game winning goal, in overtime.
In the postgame trophy presentation, Biebel and fellow sophomore Sam D’Antuono were named to the NE- 10 Championship All-Tournament Team for their play in the tournament. With the loss, the Knights finished the season as tournament runner ups for the third time in the past four seasons.
“It’s always exhilarating to play a big game in front of such a large crowd,” Biebel said. “We worked hard and we really left it all out on the ice. This team has a lot of character and I think we really showed that throughout the game.”
In the semifinal game of the tournament, the second seeded Knights defeated third ranked Stonehill 4-1. Sam D’Antuono, ’19, netted a goal and two assists, and Jack Ouellette, ’19, added a goal and an assist. The Knights came out firing in the first period, with Eric Salzillo, ’18, opening the scoring with power play goal just 3:43 into the game. The Knights outshot Stonehill 15-10 in the period.
Midway through the second period, Dickman scored during a four on four to bump the lead up to 2-0 at 13: 29. The Knights were also able to successfully kill off a penalty in the closing minutes of the period to maintain their two goal advantage. Overall, the Knights held a commanding 17-6 edge in shots for the period.
Stonehill proved they would not go quietly in the final stanza, with a goal at 8:52 to draw to within one goal. However, Ouellette scored a big insurance goal at 14:50 to make the score 3-1. With the Stonehill net empty after matching penalties on both teams, D’Antuono scored an empty net goal to secure the win at 16:41. Johnson finished the game with 32 saves for the Knights.