Valiants Cruise Past No. 4 Norwich
Lemieux stops 53 of 56 shots in back-to-back games to win title
Courtesy of Manhattanville Athletics
NORTHFIELD, Vt. -- Behind an MVP performance from junior goaltender Pierre-Olivier Lemieux (Rimouski, Que.) and a very potent offensive attack, the No. 10 Manhattanville men's hockey team cruised to the 2011 Northfield Savings Bank Holiday Tournament championship with a convincing 5-1 win over host No. 4 Norwich University on Saturday night at Kreitzberg Arena.
Manhattanville becomes just the second school -- other than host Norwich -- to win the NSB (formerly Times-Argus) Tournament more than once, following up its 2004-05 victory by outscoring its two nationally ranked opponents, 11-3, on the way. In the 11 years of the event, the Valiants are still the only team to defeat the Cadets in regulation, having done so in both tournament wins.
Lemieux was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament after turning aside 23 of 24 shots in Saturday's title game and 53 of 56 shots overall against a pair of nationally ranked foes. He was joined on the All-Tournament team by senior assistant captain Mickey Lang (Reno, Nev.) and junior Marcus von Sydow (Stockholm, Sweden), as well as Pier-Olivier Cotnoir and Travis Janke of Norwich, Zach Graham of Adrian College and Andrew Ella of Nichols College.
It was another great offensive day for Manhattanville, as the Valiants poured in five more goals. Freshman Brian Elser (Hopewell Junction, N.Y.) was today's offensive star with a pair of goals, while Lang, von Sydow and sophomore Brett Skalski (Exton, Pa.) scored for the visitors as well in the win.
One day after a dismantling of seventh-ranked Adrian College, the Valiants came into Saturday with a ton of confidence against the fourth-ranked Cadets and showed that strength right away. Although ceding an 11-7 advantage in shots, the visitors tallied three goals in the first period that stunned the home team and put MVille in control early.
It did not take long for the visitors to get on the board, as von Sydow found the net on the first shot of the game to put the team up just 20 seconds in. The blueliner grabbed a loose puck at the offensive blue line and fired a rocket past Norwich goalie Alex Dubois for his third of the year unassisted.
After both teams went empty on their first power-play chance of the contest, Manhattanville converted on its second man-up chance to double the lead at 9:05 of the first. The goal was the result of a beautifully executed breakout from the defensive zone, as junior Dillon O'Hara (Wallingford, Conn.) and junior assistant captain Evan Michalchuk (Edmonton, Alta.) combined to feed Elser streaking into the offensive zone, and the first-year forward beat Dubois high to the top corner to record his fourth tally of the season.
Just when it seemed that the Valiants had done all they could in the opening frame, the lead grew to three with 5:02 left in the period, as Skalski and sophomore Ron Smith (North Delta, B.C.) combined for another goal. After an offensive-zone draw was directed behind the Norwich net, Smith beat a pair of players to the puck and passed out front to a wide-open Skalski, who deked past Dubois and deposited the puck into an empty cage.
As would be expected, Norwich came out of the locker room firing in the second, trying desperately to get back into the game and scoring their lone goal of the game 4:38 into the period on Cotnoir's sixth of the year. But despite the Cadets controlling possession in the offensive zone for much of the period's opening half, Lemieux made multiple great saves to keep his team firmly ahead.
And as Manhattanville settled down and eventually regained an even footing with Norwich, Lang got the visitors back up by three with a nice individual play. The All-American intercepted a cross-ice pass in the offensive zone and skated by a Cadet defender before beating Dubois high for his 14th of the year. The goal tied him for first in Division III in goals this season and also gave him sole possession of third place on the school's career goal-scoring list with 45 career tallies.
With a comfortable lead headed into the third period, Lemieux and the Manhattanville defense settled in and stymied the Cadets all frame long, with the junior making multiple tremendous saves to keep his team far ahead. With the game no longer in doubt in the final minute, Elser put the cap on a tremendous weekend with his second score of the night, coming from sophomore Jason Bowles (Elkhorn, Man.) at 19:20.
For the game, Norwich held a 24-18 edge in shots, but Lemieux and his blueliners combined to keep the Cadets at bay almost all game long while providing plenty of chances for the Valiant offense to shine. Dubois made just 11 saves on 15 shots in two periods of action, while Parker Carroll made his collegiate debut in the third period and allowed one goal on three shots.
Manhattanville (10-3-1, 1-3-0 ECAC West), which moves to 9-0-1 against non-conference opposition this season, will continue non-league play on Friday night as the Valiants travel to SUNY Cortland for a 7 p.m. matchup. WMVL 88.1 FM will have live audio coverage of the game starting at 6:50 p.m. Norwich (6-3-1, 4-0-1 ECAC East) returns to action Tuesday at 7 p.m. at SUNY Plattsburgh.