NESCAC Champions! Men's hockey wins first title, on to NCAA tourney

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Colby College is the New England Small College Athletic Conference men's hockey champions.

The sixth-seeded Mules earned their first NESCAC title and are headed to the NCAA Division III Tournament after a wild 4-1 win over defending champion Trinity College on the Bantams' home ice Sunday. The NCAA pairings will be announced on Monday at 10:30 a.m.
 
"It was such an incredible feeling," said Colby senior Michael Decker, an All-NESCAC defenseman. "From where our class started to now being NESCAC champs is surreal. With all the support we've had around campus, from our hockey alums, and the Waterville community, we're so happy to bring our first title back to Colby and Waterville."
 
Colby opened up a 2-0 lead and then had a miracle goal by Cam MacDonald on an impossible angle to make it 3-1 just 13 seconds after top-seeded Trinity cut the lead to 2-1. MacDonald, who later added an empty net goal, scored from behind the extended goal line after Trinity goaltender Alex Morin failed to cover the post properly.
 
The goal made Colby head coach Blaise MacDonald, Cam's father, a proud dad.
 
"I feel so blessed to have been together with Cam over his career. I'm very happy and proud of his work at Colby, on and off the ice," MacDonald said. "It has truly been a family affair this year with (son) Joe on the team as well."
 
Colby senior goalie Sean Lawrence was once again a force with 38 saves. He allowed just eight goals in Colby's current 5-0-2 unbeaten streak. Lawrence gave up just three goals in NESCAC playoff wins against Amherst College, Wesleyan University, and Trinity. 
 
"Sean has high expectations for himself and we feed off his confidence and spirit," MacDonald said. "He has a great resume of winning and that is something you look at when you recruit guys."
 
After a scoreless first period, the Mules scored two goals in the opening 6:43 to take control. Zack Hale scored his fourth of the season after Griffin Fadden pushed a puck to him from behind the goal to the right. Hale won a strength battle with a Trinity defenseman and whacked at the puck for the score at 2:51.
 
Spencer Hewson finished up a solid two days of hockey with Colby's second goal at 6:43 of the second period. Phil Klitirinos banked a pass to himself off the right boards and entered the Trinity zone. He crossed a pass over to Andrew Reis, who centered a pass that hit Hewson's stick and trickled over the line.
 
Colby did a terrific job all game helping Lawrence with a stunning 27 blocked shots.
 
"That's just the character of our team," Colby tri-captain Michael Rudolf said. "Everyone is willing to put their body on the line. When someone blocks a shot, everyone on the bench gets fired up."
 
Trinity appeared to be back in the game when Michael Grande scored at 4:14 of the third period on a shot where Lawrence appeared to be screened.
 
Rudolf won the face-off after the Trinity goal and chased down a loose puck off the stick of Reis. Rudolf put a pass up the boards to MacDonald. A Trinity defenseman did his job by steering MacDonald to the corner, but Morin may have been surprised that MacDonald took the tough angle shot.
 
"On the pass to Cam, I just took a quick look up and saw that he was uncovered on the far blue line," said Rudolf, a tri-captain from Switzerland. "I just fired it up there and Cam did the rest. That was a huge goal for us."
 
Trinity had a rare opportunity to get back in the game when the Bantams were awarded a penalty shot with 10:03 left in the game. A Colby player had covered the puck in the goal crease with his hand. 
 
Grande took the penalty shot, but Lawrence stood his ground as Grande came in slow. Grande was forced to go backhand and he stuffed the puck into the left part of the net.
 
"I knew he was one of their more skilled players, so I figured he was going to try and take his time and out-wait me," Lawrence said. "I was just trying to stay as patient as I could and let him make the first move before committing."
 
The Bantams pulled Morin with 2:11 to play, but MacDonald put in the empty net goal with 1:12 left off assists from Justin Grillo and Thomas Stahlhuth.
 
Colby's players threw their gloves up in the air and mobbed Lawrence behind the goal.
 
"It's still an unreal feeling that is hard to describe in words," Colby tri-captain Phil Klitirinos said. "We just wanted to represent Colby to the best of our abilities and we did that today. To share this with my 29 brothers and teammates is unbelievable."