By Mike Zhe
What did Babson need to have done over the weekend?
Just a little bridge work.
The Beavers are headed back to the NCAA tournament as champions of the ECAC East, after getting past second-seeded UMass-Boston (4-3 in overtime) and top-seeded Norwich (2-1) in the conference tournament.
Not only did the wins at Norwich lift the third-seeded Beavers into the NCAAs, it also gave their seniors a championship to call their own. It’s now been eight years since a class has left the school without winning at least one ECAC East title.
“I remember seeing the seniors last year at our banquet and it was like, there goes a little bit of history,” said Babson coach Jamie Rice (Newton, Mass.). “Our current seniors were the ones most affected. They’d be the ones without (a title).”
The current Babson seniors lost in the ECAC East championship game in both 2010 and ’11.
In the late stages of Friday’s semifinal against UMass-Boston, it looked like the end was at hand again. Not only were the Beavers chasing a 3-1 deficit, they were shorthanded after Ryan Heavey got sent off for high-sticking with a little over six minutes left.
“I don’t think we felt like we were out of it,” said Rice, “but with six minutes left, we take a penalty and it’s, ‘We’re up against it now, boys.’”
But Mike Driscoll (Milton, Mass.) and Jay Haseley scored 28 seconds apart once the team was back at full strength to force overtime, and captain Ryan Smith scored the game-winner three minutes into sudden-death.
The Beavers closed out the title with a 2-1 win over Norwich, with tournament MVP Zeke Testa (Wellesley, Mass.) making 39 saves.
The Beavers will host ECAC Northeast champion Wentworth in an NCAA first-round game Wednesday night at the Babson Skating Center. The winner advances to play in the quarterfinals at Norwich, which received a first-round bye despite losing in the final.
From leading scorer P.T. Donato of Arlington, Mass. (3-23-26); to the semifinal heroics of Haseley and Smith (Lynnfield, Mass.); to Matt Leer and Trevor Hines (Newburyport, Mass.), who combined for the game-tying goal in the final; to Testa, the Babson seniors had a big say in how the weekend unfolded.
“Seniors, you get to know them a bit better,” said Rice. “They’re like your oldest children. When you send them out into the world, you want them to be prepared.”
And champions, to boot.
Bowdoin closed out its wire-to-wire title in the NESCAC, getting goals from Colin Downey (East Sandwich, Mass.) and Harry Matheson in a 2-1 win over Williams in the championship.
Like they did in their 4-2 semifinal win over Middlebury, when they got a pair of first-period goals from Danny Palumbo, the Polar Bears started fast, leading 2-0 after one period. They will host MASCAC champion UMass-Dartmouth in an NCAA first-round game Wednesday at Sid Watson Arena.
UMD came from behind to stun host Plymouth State in the MASCAC final, 2-1, and earn their first trip to the NCAAs since 2007-08.
Ryan Williams stopped 37 of 38 shots and defenseman Steve Ginand (Milford, Mass.) scored the game-winner midway through the third period to lift UMD, who needed three overtimes to shed Salem State, 5-4, in the semifinals.
Freshman goalie Joel Miller’s 18 saves helped Wentworth win its second straight ECAC Northeast title, beating Salve Regina in the final, 3-1. Freshman Adam Frank, Sean McLaughlin (North Billerica, Mass.) and Cameron Gibson did the scoring.
New England Division 3 Power Rankings
1. Bowdoin (22-3-2, 13-3-2 NESCAC)
Goalie Max Fenkell posted a 1.50 goals-against average and .948 save percentage in two wins over the weekend.
2. Norwich (23-3-1, 16-1-1 ECAC East)
Three assists from senior Kyle Thomas (Waltham, Mass.) helped spark 6-2 semifinal win over Castleton.
3. Babson (17-6-5, 10-5-3 ECAC East)
The ECAC East title was third in the last seven years for Beavers, who now have a four-game unbeaten streak against Norwich.
4. Williams (17-7-3, 12-4-2 NESCAC)
Eric Rubino had a goal and an assist as the Ephs skated past Trinity, 4-2, to reach the NESCAC final.
5. UMass-Boston (19-6-2, 11-5-2 ECAC
Great season, but Beacons will be kicking themselves for not closing out their semifinal game against Babson.
5. Trinity (15-7-3, 11-4-3 NESCAC)
Goalie Ben Coulthard (South Windsor, Conn.) finished a superb junior season with a 2.28 GAA and .935 save percentage.
7. UMass-Dartmouth (12-7-7, 9-3-6 MASCAC)
Ginand finished MASCAC championship week with three goals and an assist to lift Corsairs.
8. Wentworth (14-8-3, 10-2-2 ECAC
Leopards’ unbeaten streak now at eight games (6-0-2) after closing out second straight ECAC Northeast title on Sunday.
9. Plymouth State (19-7-1, 14-3-1 MASCAC)
Senior goalie Jack Astedt capped his career by stopping 47 of 49 shots in two games last weekend.
10. Amherst (15-7-3, 11-5-2 NESCAC)
Forward Johnny van Siclen’s 14 goals were fifth-most in the conference.