NORTHFIELD, Vt. -- No. 1 Norwich held off a fourth-quarter rally by second-seeded Mount Ida to win its first Great Northeast Athletic Conference tournament championship by a score of 9-7 on Saturday afternoon at Howard Field.

With the win, the Cadets completed a flawless 12-0 season against GNAC opponents and improved to 12-3 overall. With the championship win, Norwich sealed the automatic bid to the 2013 NCAA tournament. It will mark the first NCAA appearance for the program.

The Mustangs, who entered the game as the defending GNAC champions, had their season come to a close at 11-8.

Norwich held an 8-5 lead with 6:50 left in the game but the Mustangs refused to settle, scoring a pair of goals within a two-minute span to set the score at 8-7 with 3:26 to play.  With 1:20 on the clock, Norwich’s Ian Thomas netted his third goal of the game on a breakaway to seal the win for the Cadets.

In addition to Thomas, the Cadets received two goals and an assist by Seth Fuller. Ian Mendoza, Arron Canerelli, Nate Fortezzo and Josh Menge all added single goals for Norwich.

The Cadets opened the game with a 3-1 first quarter as Mendoza and Fortezzo put the Cadets on the board at 8:14 and 7:54. Following a Mount Ida goal by Nick Yacuzzi, Fuller rounded out the quarter with a goal at 1:13. 

At 2:46 in the second quarter, Timothy Seibert made a long pass from 10 yards outside of the restraining box to Thomas, who was positioned at the top of the crease. Thomas’ goal found the net and the Cadets took the 4-1 lead.

From the time of Thomas’ goal, the Cadets started a scoring drought spanning a little more than 29 minutes. With Norwich unable to get a shot past Mount Ida goaltender Craig Bray, the Mustangs used the momentum to score three consecutive goals at 11:55 in the second quarter and at 4:55 and 2:45 of the third quarter to even the score at 4.

With 12:09 to play in the game, Norwich’s Canarelli broke the Cadets’ scoring drought by beating his defender to the right from the top of the restraining box and shooting high left. The Mustangs took just 59 seconds to even the score again on a Michael Markevich goal, but the Cadets responded with three consecutive goals by Menge, Fuller and Thomas to take the 8-5 lead.

Mount Ida’s offense was fueled by two goals and three assists from Phil Pichel. Yacuzzi added two goals and an assist, while Michael Trocchi scored one and dished out two assists.

Norwich goaltender Mark Paradiso recorded 10 saves and was named the GNAC tournament Most Valuable Player for his efforts spanning Norwich’s three tournament games. Bray recorded 17 saves for the Mustangs and was named to the all-tournament team.

Trocchi and Michael Witney also were all-tournament selections from the Mustangs, while Mendoza, Fortezzo, Thomas and Menge were named to the squad from the Cadets.

Fortezzo won 15 of 19 faceoff attempts for Norwich and totaled a team-high 10 ground balls. Chaz Strom led the Mustangs with five ground balls.

Conference Championship Schedule/Results