RUTLAND, Vt. — Blake Forkey and Tory Allan scored goals 17 seconds apart to break a 5-5 tie late in the third period and lift top-ranked Norwich to a 7-5 win against No. 4 Castleton on Saturday afternoon at Spartan Arena.
In a game that featured everything from a playoff atmosphere, physical hits, highlight-reel goals and momentum shifts; the Cadets prevailed with the final momentum shift to sweep the season series from Castleton and record their third consecutive victory in the budding “Battle of Vermont” rivalry.
With the victory, Norwich (19-2-1, 14-2-0 ECAC East) wrapped up its unprecedented 14th consecutive Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) East regular season championship along with home ice for its duration in the ECAC East Tournament.
Forkey provided the game-winning goal on the power play when he tipped a blast from the point off the stick of Pier-Olivier Cotnoir that ricocheted past Castleton State goalie Erick Cinotti’s glove and into the back of the net to give Norwich a 6-5 lead at the 13:33 mark of the third.
Allan added the insurance maker 17 seconds later when he skated in from the left wing and rifled a shot short side past Cinotti to stun the Spartan faithful for his 10th goal of the season. Igor Martinez recorded an assist on the goal.
Castleton (16-5-2, 11-3-2 ECAC East) jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead just 3:45 into the game with two power play goals coming 1:26 apart from Kevin Van Dyk and Justin Alonzo.
Van Dyk made it 1-0 while on a 5-on-3 advantage when he tipped an initial shot from Tyler Atkins at the point past Norwich goalie Parker Carroll. Alonzo gave the Spartans a two-goal lead when he jammed a puck home while right on top of the crease off a pass from Josh Harris.
After the initial Castleton rush in the first five minutes, Norwich slowly started to get its legs under them and mount some offensive pressure.
Finally at the 12:54 mark, Chris Duszynski broke through by converting a on a 2-on-1 give and go with Martinez to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Just 15 seconds later Kyle Thomas scored arguably the goal of the year to date. He picked off the puck in the neutral zone and used a burst of speed to split the two Castleton defensemen and launch himself on a breakaway. Thomas ripped a wrist shot that went off the cross bar and down into the net with authority that left Cinotti absolutely no chance.
The Cadets kept the momentum rolling as Cotnoir gave NU its first lead of the game at the 15:31 mark to complete a three-goal run in a span of 2:37. Cotnoir took a wrist shot from the point that found its way through traffic and past the glove of Cinotti to make it 3-2 Norwich. The goal was Norwich’s first of two on the power play on the night.
After the offensive explosion in the first period, the game settled down quite a bit in the second period with neither side able to muster a goal in the first 14 minutes.
However, Castleton’s Dan Bell bounced on an opportunistic rebound that deflected off the glove of Carroll right to Bell’s stick who slid it past the NU goalie and tied up the game at the 14:07 mark of the second.
Colin Mulvey shifted the momentum back to the Maroon and Gold though before the end of the period when he scored his second shorthanded goal of the season and his 10th overall to give NU a 4-3 lead at the 18:48 mark.
Mulvey capitalized on a Castleton State defender coughing up the puck on the blue line and then falling over to spring him on a clean breakaway. Mulvey skated in on Cinotti and then unleashed a wrist shot from the middle of the slot over the glove of the Spartans’ goalie to deflate the home team’s momentum heading into the second intermission.
The offensive fireworks returned in the third period as the two teams combined for five goals to turn the game into a true barn burner.
Norwich struck first just 23 seconds into the final frame when Thomas scored his second goal of the night and 13th of the season to give the Cadets a 5-3 lead.
However, Castleton wasn’t done yet as the Spartans stormed back with two more power play goals from Ryan Frost and Nick Lazorko to tie the game at five with 8:22 left.
Norwich head coach Mike McShane called a timeout after Castleton tied it to settle the team down. The ploy worked as a little under 1:30 later the Cadets drew a penalty and then Forkey converted on the ensuing power play to give the Cadets the lead for good.
Castleton outshot Norwich 28-24 and finished a lethal 4-for-6 on the power play. The Cadets were 2-for-8 with the man advantage.
Carroll made 23 saves to pick up the win and improve to 12-1-1 on the season. He has now won four straight starts since losing 2-1 to UMass-Boston on Jan. 14. He is now an impressive 26-2-3 in his career for the Maroon & Gold. Cinotti made 17 saves for Castleton and fell to 8-4-2 on the year with the loss.
Norwich is now 8-3-0 all-time against Castleton State.