WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. – It was all-out pandemonium for the Wesleyan men's ice hockey team as the Cardinals scored seven goals in just over 30 minutes of action, erasing an early deficit to thunder past No. 8 Trinity, 7-2, winning the program's first-ever NESCAC Championship on Sunday afternoon from Lansing Chapman Rink on the campus of Williams College. Wesleyan captures its first conference title in the Cardinals' first NESCAC Championship game appearance, improving to 15-11-1 on the season and securing the league's automatic bid into the 2020 NCAA Tournament.
The victory was a resounding one as the fifth-seeded Cardinals scored four unanswered goals in a span of just 10:25 between the second and third periods to take a commanding 4-1 lead that proved enough in the end. Wesleyan's seven goals set a league record for the most goals scored in a NESCAC title game. Six different goal scorer lit the lamp for Wesleyan while Walker Harris finished with four points (one goal, three assists) to tie the NESCAC Championship game record for the highest point total by a single skater. One night removed from making 40 saves in the Cardinals' semifinal win over the Ephs, Tim Sestak was tremendous once again, posting 38 saves on 40 shots on-goal from Trinity as he continues to deliver in the postseason for Wesleyan throughout his career.
Wesleyan completes a torrid run through the NESCAC Tournament that included three wins, all away from home, as the Cardinals upset the fourth-seeded Middlebury (4-2), top seed/No. 9 nationally-ranked Williams (3-2 OT) and the second-seed/No. 8 Trinity (7-2). The Cardinals head into their first NCAA Tournament appearance and await its pairing on Monday morning's selection show.
- For how lopsided the final score indicates, Trinity controlled the action in the early going as the Bantams outshot the Cardinals 14-6 in the first and were able to put one home off the stick of Riley Prattson with 9:03 expired in the period
- More than 20 minutes went by without a goal from either side as Trinity appeared to be in full control, outshooting the Cardinals nearly 2:1, but the Cardinals were able to find the equalizer courtesy of Spencer Fox's wonder goal. Michael Kerbrat won a battle on the boards, sending the puck to Tyler Wyatt who carried around the net only to have his pass deflected up in the air. As the puck got to waste-level, Fox took a swing with the puck still in mid-air, connecting perfectly as his shot found the back of the net nearly midway through the second
- Wesleyan took the lead late in the second as Harris flung a wrister on-net that was initially saved by Jonah Capriotti but Jordan Rose was left unmarked at the far post as he banged in the rebound to make it 2-1 Cardinals
- With very little time left in the second, Wesleyan added a third in the frame as Harris spotted Tyler Levine open behind the Trinity defensive pairing. Harris' seeing-eye pass found the stick of Levine who carried in on a breakaway and roofed a backhand-forehand shot that sent the Wesleyan bench into hysterics as suddenly it was 3-1 Cardinals entering the third
MIH | WHAT. A. GOAL.— Wesleyan Athletics (@wes_athletics) March 8, 2020
Walker Harris ➡️ Tyler Levine ��
The perfect pass from Harris springs Levine who goes forehand-backhand to put @wes_mhockey ahead 3-1 ‼️#WeAreWes | #RollCards pic.twitter.com/UD1hpIRdq4
- Just nine seconds into the final period, Wesleyan's onslaught continued as Harris nudged the puck to Cam Peritz who carried into the Bantam defensive zone. With Levine open, Peritz hit his linemate in-stride and Levine made no mistake, burying a wicked wrist shot bar-down to give Wesleyan a 4-1 lead
MIH | ⬆️ Shelf, Bar ⬇️ snipe from Tyler Levine ��— Wesleyan Athletics (@wes_athletics) March 8, 2020
Just 9️⃣ seconds into the 3rd period, Levine makes it 4️⃣ unanswered goals from @wes_mhockey who now lead Trinity 4-1 ��#WeAreWes | #RollCards pic.twitter.com/c6yTWOjeNh
- Trinity answered back just 2:19 later, putting an end to the 4-0 Wesleyan run, as Michael Grande made it 4-2 Cardinals with more than 17 minutes left
- That Bantam goal, however, was quickly answered by yet another Cardinal strike as Kerbrat took a feed from Fox and wrapped around Capriotti's net, beating the Bantam goalkeeper to the opposite post and stuffing home the goal that rebuilt the three-goal Cardinal advantage
- From the time of the Trinity goal that made it 4-2, Sestak made sure the Bantams wouldn't get any closer as he posted 13 consecutive saves over the remaining 17+ minutes of the game, sealing the Cardinals' first-ever league title
- With time running out on the Bantams, Wesleyan found their insurance marker behind an empty-netter from Quincy Gregg with 2:53 remaining that sealed the Bantams' fate
- Harris added another for good measure, skating backwards he took a pass from Sestak and lofted a shot the full length of the ice into the awaiting empty net to give the Cardinals one more goal to celebrate before the final horn sounded
Head Coach Chris Potter - "The team played great! We needed to play a little better than we did in the first. I thought we played afraid, too loose and we were not going for it. Our leadership showed us the way and the rest of the guys followed. A lot of work went into the win from past players and coaches and some of them were there to be a part of it."
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- Wesleyan's seven goals sets a new NESCAC record for the most goals scored in a league title game, breaking the previous record of six set by Middlebury back in 2004
- The five-goal margin-of-victory is the largest-ever in a NESCAC title game
- The last time Wesleyan scored seven goals against a NESCAC foe came all the way back on Feb. 8, 2014 in a 7-3 win over Williams
- Wesleyan becomes the fifth team in NESCAC history to win the conference title being seeded fifth or lower
- Wesleyan becomes the sixth NESCAC school to win a men's hockey league title, joining Middlebury (eight NESCAC championships), Trinty (five), Amherst (three), Bowdoin (two) and Colby (one)
- Harris' four-point night ties the single-game record set by Trinity's Michael Hawkrigg in the 2016 title game for the most points scored by a single player in a NESCAC Championship
- Ten different Cardinals tallied at least one point
- Four different Wesleyan players recorded a multi-point game – Harris (1-3-4), Levine (2-1-3), Fox (1-2-3) and Kerbrat (1-1-2)
- Trinity outshot Wesleyan 40-28 for the game
- The Cardinals earned their first-ever league title despite being outshot in all three NESCAC Tournament games
- Sestak's assist on Harris' empty-netter is the first of his career
- Harris' three assists gives him 20 for the season while he now has 33 points (13 goals, 20 assists) through 27 games played
- Wesleyan awaits to see their first round opponent as the NCAA Div. III Tournament Selection Show is scheduled for Monday morning