Sophomore forward Dean Niezgoda (Brewster, Mass.) scored with 6:46 left in the third period to lift the Norwich University men's ice hockey team to a crucial 1-0 shutout victory over Babson College on Friday night at Kreitzberg Arena.
Niezgoda tapped home a rebound off an initial shot by freshman forward Austin Surowiec (Louisville, Ky.) for his third goal of the season to finally get a puck past Babson sophomore goalie Jamie Murray.
Niezgoda's heroics foiled a brilliant 47-save performance by Murray that kept Babson in the game despite being heavily outshot by a 48-10 margin. It also marked the second time Norwich has beaten Babson 1-0 this season with the first coming on Jan. 9 at Fenway Park.
Freshman forward William Pelletier (St. Jean Chrysotome, Quebec) started the play by finding Surowiec streaking down the right wing. Surowiec corralled the pass and got a wrist shot off that Murray was initially able to make the save on. However, Niezgoda crashed the net and fended off two Babson players, as well as Murray to get a stick on the puck and flip it up and into the left corner of the net to sound the Kreitzberg crowd into a frenzy.
Norwich (16-5-3, 12-3-2 ECAC East) kept its hopes alive in trying to continue its impressive ECAC East regular season win streak. The Cadets have won 15 straight titles and with Friday night's win moved within one point of Babson (19-4-1, 13-3-1 ECAC East) for the top spot. Norwich needs to beat UMass-Boston on Saturday and then will need St. Michael's to tie or beat Babson in order to continue the streak.
However, with the victory, Norwich did lock up at least the No. 2 seed for the ECAC East Tournament, which assures the Cadets of home ice through the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Norwich dominated the possession and pace of the game from the opening faceoff as 15 seconds into the game junior forward Nevin Lawler (Fitchburg, Mass.) delivered a bone-jarring check on Babson's Shayne Anderson behind the Beavers' goal to set the tone for the game.
The Cadets outshot Babson 14-2 over the first 20 minutes and didn't allow Babson a shot on goal for nearly 12 minutes.
The second period featured more of the same with NU holding a 12-5 shot advantage in the middle frame. Norwich had a few golden scoring opportunities with Shane Gorman moving in all alone with Murray only to be stoned on the breakaway. Just a little over a minute later Brendan Boyce (St. Albans, Vt.) ripped a shot that Murray got a glove on to just deflect it off the post and away from the cage.
At the 10:32 mark of the period, Pelletier made a nifty toe-drag to create space around a Babson defender before getting off a shot in tight that Murray made the save on. In the last minute of the period, senior forward Travis Janke (Swift Current, Saskatchewan) was robbed on the doorstep of the crease with a quick side to side save by Murray.
Norwich continued to turn up the pressure in the third period, outshooting Babson 22-3. Murray made his three most impressive saves of the night in the final period, robbing Duszynski with a Martin Brodeur-esque stack the pads rolling glove save at the 8:15 mark of the period. He then followed up three minutes later with another stonewall save on Duszynski and a follow up attempt by Janke while sprawled out on the ice.
Norwich closes out the regular season on Saturday at 4 p.m. when it hosts UMass-Boston. The game will also serve as Senior Night for the Cadets when they will honor their six seniors prior to the game with a ceremony on the ice.
Senior goalie Chris Czarnota (Wakefield, Mass.) stopped all 10 shots he faced, including a huge save with just over a minute left when he blocked a one-timer shot by Andrew Bonazza off a faceoff with his shoulder to keep the Cadets on top by one. He improved to 6-2-1 and picked up his fourth shutout of the season.
Courtesy: Norwich Athletic Department
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