Morrell early hat trick brings Bryant its fourth consecutive NEC championship
PHILADELPHIA -- Bryant never trailed in Saturday afternoon's 2015 Northeast Conference championship, getting an early hat trick from Shane Morrell and 11 saves from tournament MVP Gunnar Waldt to earn its fourth consecutive conference crown and third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament with a 10-6 win against top-seeded Saint Joseph's.
Now 4-0 all-time in NEC Championship games and 9-1 in the NEC Tournament, the Bulldogs (8-9) scored three unanswered third-quarter goals to bust open a 5-4 halftime edge, leading by as many as five in the fourth frame on their way to the win.
|BRYANT 10, SAINT JOSEPH'S 6|
Senior faceoff specialist and all-tournament team selection Kevin Massa secured possession for the Black and Gold on 17-of-20 faceoffs, scooping up 11 ground balls. Sophomore leading scorer Tucker James chipped in two goals with one assist, as did senior Brian Schlansker, who netted both of Bryant's man-up tallies (2-for-4) on the day.
Morrell earned an all-tournament team selection of his own thanks to his first-half hat trick that was capped off five minutes into the second for a 5-1 Bulldog advantage. Morrell's first goal of the day came 51 seconds into the contest, and the junior scored again as the first-quarter clock ticked below 10 minutes before James and junior midfielder Collins Gantz gave the visitors a 4-0 lead two minutes into the second.
But Morrell's third was the last of the half for the Bulldogs, who saw a four-goal lead slip down to just one over a six-minute stretch for a 5-4 margin heading into the intermission.
A crosscheck on Anthony Joaquim led to the first of two Schlansker man-up scores 39 seconds into the third, and sophomore all-tournament team defenseman Cody O'Donnell would take an outlet pass from Waldt coast-to-coast for the third time in the tournament three minutes into the stanza for a 7-4 Bryant lead.
James added a score despite a broken play to close out the third and send the third-seeded Bulldogs into the final period with an 8-4 advantage that would prove to be more than the visitors needed.
Another man-up goal from Schlansker was answered by Mike Dougherty in the final stanza, but rookie midfielder Tom Kennedy added an insurance goal with 2:28 left, securing the 10-6 win.
Saint Joseph's outshot Bryant 36-30 on the afternoon but saw the Bulldogs win the ground ball margin 33-24 thanks to an 11-3 margin in the fourth.
Ryan McGee led all scorers with three goals and two assists for Saint Joseph's, while goalie T.J. Jones made eight saves.
The Bulldogs now await their NCAA tournament fate, one that will be revealed Sunday night during ESPNU's Division I tournament selection show.