Saturday, March 1st
NORTHFIELD, Vt. – The Norwich University men's ice hockey team is headed to its fifth straight ECAC East Tournament Championship game following a thrilling 4-3 win over in-state rival Castleton in Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) East semifinal action at Kreitzberg Arena on Saturday night.
The Cadets scored four straight goals to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 4-1 lead by the midway point of the second period. Norwich then withstood a furious Castleton comeback that saw the Spartans get to within one goal. However, Norwich senior goaltender Chris Czarnota ( came up huge in the final moments of the game, making a superb pad save on Castleton's Ryan Frost just seconds before the final horn to preserve the 4-3 victory.
Norwich (19-5-3) will meet Babson in the ECAC East finals for the second straight season and fourth time in the last five years. Babson beat Norwich 2-1 in last year's title game. The Cadets will be looking for the 11th ECAC East Tournament crown.
Castleton (13-11-3) struck first just past the midway point of the first period when Brian Greene slapped home a stray puck in the high slot past Czarnota's blocker to put the Spartans up 1-0.
Norwich responded at the 14:26 mark as senior Chris Duszynski snapped a six-game scoreless streak with his team-leading 16th goal of the season on the power play to knot the game at 1-1.
Duszynski one-timed a feed from freshman forward Anthony Flaherty from behind the net past Castleton starting goalie Thomas Shelley. Senior forward Travis Janke also tallied an assist on the goal.
Just 1:18 later freshman defenseman Cody Smith put Norwich on top 2-1 with a blast from the blue line that found its way through traffic for his third goal of the season and first since Nov. 16. Smith followed up his own initial shot that was blocked in the mid slot.
Norwich kept the momentum rolling at the start of the second period with sophomore Dean Niezgoda scoring his fifth of the season 26 seconds into the middle frame.
Niezgoda chased down a dump in the corner by Austin Surowiec and wheeled around the outside of the right faceoff circle. He fended off a Castleton defender, created some space and fired a low shot that eluded Shelley to make it 3-1 Norwich.
Niezgoda's goal prompted Castleton head coach Steve Moffat to pull Shelley in favor of senior Erick Cinotti.
Senior forward Travis Janke made it 4-1 at the 8:28 mark of the second period when he jammed the puck past Cinotti on the doorstep of the crease after Paul Russell fed a pass to him all alone in front of the net.
Moffat called timeout two minutes after the goal to try and settle down his team. The timeout worked as Castleton settled down and slowly became to pick up steam.
Kyle Pichler finally broke Norwich's scoring run at the 18:56 mark of the second period when he fired a shot past Czarnota off a feed from Derek Gingera to cut the deficit to 4-2.
The Spartans continued to carry the play for a large part of the third period and outshot Norwich 9-6. Charles Bando made it one-goal game when he finished off a 2-on-1 with Ryan Frost by beating Czarnota to blocker side from the left wing.
However, that's as close as Castleton would get as Czarnota and the NU defense buckled down and staved off the Spartans' furious comeback attempt.
Norwich ended Castleton's season for the third straight season after the Cadets also knocked Castleton out in last year's semifinals as well as beat the Spartans 11-1 in the 2012 ECAC East Championship.
Norwich improved to 9-0-1 against Castleton its last 10 meetings and holds a 15-4-1 edge in the all-time series.
Norwich has beaten Babson 1-0 in both of the two team's meetings so far this season. The Cadets have won three in a row over the Beavers, including a 4-0 win in last year's NCAA Quarterfinals; one week after Babson won the ECAC East title.
--- Norwich Sports Information
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