BOSTON -- ECAC East powers Norwich University (10-1-2, 7-0-1 ECAC East) and Babson College (11-3-0, 5-2-0) skated back to Frozen Fenway on Thursday night. Saying the game was one full of near misses and a battle of the goaltenders would be an understatement.
But in a tight game, leave it to Cadet senior Shane Gorman (Trumbull, Conn.) to make the game-deciding play. The Gunnery School product, who scored twice in Norwich’s win at the old ballyard two years ago, scored the lone goal of the game to propel the No. 5 Cadets over the No. 6 Beavers.
“It was an exciting game,” Cadet head coach and University of New Hampshire alum Mike McShane (Wakefield, Mass.) commented post-game. “I thought both teams played extremely hard. … It’s very hard to score goals. The goalies are so good, the defenses block. You just have to chip away at it, stay focused and not have any letdowns.”
The two teams have skated to some epic finishes in recent years, including a 2-1 encounter in favor of the Beavers for the ECAC East title on March 2 in Northfield, Vt.
Norwich came back exactly one week later and handed the visitors a 4-0 loss in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA tournament, ending Babson’s season after winning the league title.
With the result, the teams have now split their last six head-to-head meetings dating back two seasons. NU extended its ECAC East lead to five points with the victory, its 34th in 60 all-time meetings with Babson.
“It’s the biggest win so far this year,” McShane said. “It was nice to win the (Northfield Savings Bank Tournament) championship last weekend against Amherst...and now winning this game helps build confidence.”
Neither side was able to find the back of the net in the first period, but the Cadets put much of the pressure on Babson sophomore goalie Jamie Murray (Scituate, Mass.) over the first few minutes of the opening period.
The second period was much of the same as the Cadets and Beavers were held off the scoreboard for another 20 minutes, unable to take advantage of 20 combined shots on goal.
In addition to Gorman scoring the winning goal in the waning moments, another local product was a key for the Cadets. Despite having only played one period this season entering the game, senior goaltender Chris Czarnota (Wakefield, Mass.) made the start and pitched a strong 21-save shutout, which included seven stops in the first period and another nine in the second.
One of the most memorable saves of the night came on Babson senior Nik Tasiopoulous (Norwell, Mass.) who drove to the net in the final minute of the second period, but Czarnota held down the fort and made a huge pad save.
Could he have imagined such a result?
“I don’t know if I could have asked for a better game than that,” the Wakefield High School product Czarnota said. “There’s no way I could have thought coming into this game something like this would have happened - a shutout. (It was) unbelievable. … It’s nice coming back to Boston, kind of a hometown game. It was a treat.”
Dean Niezgoda (Brewster, Mass.) had a glorious chance in the middle stages of the final stanza for NU. About 12 minutes in, he worked the Babson defense for a nice wraparound try that was just off and found its way into the glove and pads of Murray sprawling out on the goal crease.
The Cadets finally capitalized at the 10:11 mark of the final stanza as Gorman was right on the spot in front to poke home the rebound for his seventh goal and team-best 21st point of the season.
Senior Chris Duszynski started the play along the wall and whistled a pass across to second-year blue liner Ryan Whitell, who fired the puck on net. Murray, who finished an otherwise solid night with 30 saves, left a pretty juicy rebound in the slot for the lone tally.
“It’s a great experience always to play here at Fenway,” Gorman, admittedly a Yankees fan, said of his third-career goal at the park. “It was a great breakout by my linemates...and then Ryan Whitell took a nice shot on net and I had an empty net again just like my first goal here, so I had to put it in the back of the net.”
As a Wakefield native himself, McShane has memories of watching long Ted Williams home runs from the right field bleachers. And he will now have a second win as hockey coach to add.
“I’m a Boston guy, I love coming here,” the Cadet skipper said. “It’s been nice to me. We’re thrilled to experience it.”