WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. – Wesleyan men's hockey freshman Jake Lachance wound up from the point and fired in the overtime game-winner for the Cardinals in a 3-2 victory at No. 9 Williams in the NESCAC Semifinals on Saturday. The fifth-seed Wesleyan (14-11-1) advances to the program's first-ever NESCAC Championship appearance and will face No. 8 Trinity (19-6-1) in an all-Connecticut title game on Sunday at 2:00 PM from the campus of Williams.
An incredible bounce-back effort saw the Cardinals hold a 2-0 lead with less than five minutes remaining in regulation before the host Ephs scored a pair, including the game-tying goal with 31 seconds left, to send the playoff game into an extra session. Despite the two-goal flurry, Wesleyan persevered behind Lachance's first career goal, the game-winner just 4:40 into the overtime period as the Cardinals came roaring off the bench to hug their OT hero.
- Tim Sestak shined in the early going as he denied all 14 shots-on-goal from Williams in the opening period, including three in a span of less than one minute, that kept the game scoreless
- Tyler Kobryn fired in his first of two on the day late in the first as Cam Peritz fired a shot on-goal that was saved by Cosimo Lazzarino but the rebound kicked out to Kobryn who put home the goal to make it 1-0 with 2:16 left in the opening period
- The second period played out much like the first as Sestak continued his dominance, making 13 more saves in the second, before Kobryn notched his second goal to make it 2-0 Cardinals late in the period
- Kobryn's second of the game came off a breakout as Stephen O'Connor sent the Cardinals up-ice into the Ephs' defensive zone. O'Connor then stopped and fired cross-ice to Liam Donelan who's stick broke on the ensuing shot attempt. Donelan's misfire, however, nudged the puck enough to Kobryn in the slot as he made it 2-
- Sestak continued to rack up the saves, as the senior netminder made 33 stops and kept Wesleyan out front 2-0 until deep into the third period
- Williams made a game of it late as Myles Cunningham deeked around the Wesleyan defense, carrying behind Sestak's net and centering to Bobby Beniers who found the back of the net with 4:53 remaining as the Ephs trailed 2-1
- With the clock winding under one minute and Lazzarino pulled for an empty net, Williams managed to find the equalizer behind the stick of Mac Carso as a scramble in front of Sestak's net screened the goaltender enough for the puck to hit the back of the net
- In the overtime period, Williams fired five shots on-goal, all of which were saved by Sestak, before Lachance's heroics sent the Wesleyan bench into hysterics
- Tyler Levine broke the puck into the Ephs' defensive zone and passed to Walker Harris who skated past the faceoff dot and zipped a backhanded pass over to Lachance at the point. The lefty defenseman corralled the Harris pass and fired a wrister on-net that just rolled over the goal line for the game-winner.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- Wesleyan was in the NESCAC semifinal round for the fourth straight season but this is the first time the Cardinals have advanced
- Prior to tonight, Wesleyan was 0-4 all-time in the NESCAC semifinals
- This was just the second all-time meeting between the Cardinals and Ephs in the NESCAC Tournament (Williams 3-2 OT win in 2011 NESCAC Semifinals)
- Sestak posted 40 saves on the evening, his third-highest single-game total in the 2019-20 season
- Sestak's performance mirrored his record-breaking 65-save effort in last year's NESCAC Semifinal, a 1-0 double overtime loss to Amherst
- The senior Kobryn tallied his first two career postseason goals in what is his second career multi-goal game
- Lachance's OT postseason game-winner is the first goal of his career
- Harris' assist gives him 17 on the season while upping his point total to 29 in 2019-20
- Wesleyan was outshot 42-19 and went 0-for-2 on the power play
- The Cardinals continued to play disciplined hockey as the team with the fewest penalty minutes in the NESCAC continued to hold true to their style, committing just one two-minute penalty in nearly 65 minutes of action
- In their first-ever NESCAC title game appearance, Wesleyan will face in-state conference rival Trinity on Sunday at 2:00 PM from the Lansing Chapman Rink in Williamstown. The two sides played on the final weekend in the regular season, with Wesleyan defeating the Bantams 4-1 on the road and Trinity defeating the Cardinals 3-1 in Middletown.