MINNEAPOLIS – Trinity College (Conn.) exploded for four goals in the second period and held off a late rally to defeat Adrian, 5-3, on Friday evening inside Ridder Arena to advance to the NCAA National Championship game. The Bantams won their third consecutive NCAA tournament game to improve to 24-3-1 on the year, while the Bulldogs saw their 12-game winning streak come to an end as they finished the season with a 24-4-3 mark.
"Top to bottom it was a great team effort tonight," Trinity College Head Coach Matt Greason said. "It was impressive to see our guys play with such passion and purpose. It's what we've been preaching since we first started practicing in the fall and to see it happen in this game on a stage like this was really special."
Trinity broke open a 1-1 game less than five minutes into the second as senior captain Michael Flynn (Cheshire, Conn.) played the puck over to junior Elie Vered on an odd-man rush as the third-year forward scored the first of his two goals on the night. Clinging to a one-goal lead and on the penalty kill later in the frame, sophomore Sean Orlando made a great defensive play and broke out on a 2-on-1 with classmate Ethan Holdaway. Orlando hit Holdaway with a cross-ice pass and Holdaway scored his seventh marker of the season.
"On that play, I was thinking pass all the way," Orlando said. "Ethan made a nice move on an aggressive goaltender and that goal gave us a lot of momentum."
Midway through the second, Vered struck again, this time on the power play. After nice puck movement on the power play on a pop-out play, Vered fired a shot from just below the hashmarks in the left circle that beat Adrian senior goaltender Scott Shackell top shelf. Three minutes after Vered's 12th goal of the season, the Bulldogs pulled within two as Chris Leone potted a power-play tally of his own.
The Bantams stretched their back to three at 5-2 late in the second as sophomore forward and NESCAC Player of the Year Ryan Cole scored on a slap shot from the point. With Trinity on the power play, Orlando won a face-off back to Cole who netted his team-leading 16th goal of the season.
Adrian made it a two-goal game just over 90 seconds into the third period as freshman forward Matthew Thompson came flying in and scored on a backhand. Playing with the lead, Trinity clamped down in the defensive end. On the power play with six minutes remaining in regulation, Adrian appeared to make it a one-goal with a power-play goal off a rebound. The play was reviewed and overturned as the Bulldog player kicked the puck past the red line. With two and half minutes left in the game and still trailing by two, Adrian pulled Shackell in favor for an extra skater. Trinity held off a late charge to escape with the victory and advance to the first-ever National Championship appearance in program history.
Adrian opened the scoring 15:50 in the first period as senior forward Ryan Lowe collected the rebound to his own shot and slid the puck past Trinity netminder. Heilbron stopped the initial shot from a little inside the left dot with his pads and Lowe beat a sliding Heilbron to give the Bulldogs the early advantage. Leading up to Lowe's 10 goal of the winter, the two teams swapped scoring opportunities with a torrid back-and-forth pace up and down the ice.
With just under two minutes remaining in the first, Trinity capitalized on an Adrian turnover in the defensive zone as senior assistant captain Jackson Brewer grabbed a puck along the board and centered it to Orlando. Orlando collected the puck and found junior Michael Hawkrigg skating towards the goal as the lefty made a deke in front of the net and beat Shackell with a backhand just inside the left post to tie the game at one.
Heilbron turned aside 29 shots to earn his 19 victory between the pipes this season for the Bantams, while Shackell made 30 saves in a losing effort.
Trinity held a 35-32 advantage in shots and converted two of three power-play opportunities. On special teams, Adrian went one for four on the power play.
Vered recorded his second mutli-goal game of the season for the Bantams, while Orlando registered a season-high three helpers.
"What makes Trinity such a special place is the people and the students,"Greason said. "To have their support, both here in Minneapolis and on campus in Hartford, is something we as a team are very grateful for."