NORTHFIELD, Vt. – The Norwich University men's ice hockey team defeated Plymouth State 3-2 in the NCAA Tournament First Round on Saturday night at Kreitzberg Arena. Sophomore forward William Pelletier (St. Jean Chrysostome, Quebec) had a hand in all three goals, scoring two goals and tallying an assist to lead Norwich (25-3-1) to the victory and its sixth straight NCAA Quarterfinal appearance.
Plymouth State (16-9-3) stunned the home crowd early going up 1-0 on sophomore forward Mike Economos' 13th goal of the season just 2:23 into the game. Economos buried a one-timer from the left faceoff circle into the right corner of the net off a pass from behind the net by Dan Dupell.
Norwich answered back though at the 6:16 mark of the first period with Pelletier notching his 15th goal of the season with a well-placed wrist shot from the middle of the slot that found the left corner of the net. Sophomore forward Anthony Flaherty (South Boston, Mass.) and senior defenseman Corey Hale (Montreal, Quebec) notched the assists on the goal.
The Cadets took their first lead of the game at the 9:11 mark with sophomore forward Austin Surowiec (Louisville, Ky.) scoring his 11th goal of the season on a power play. Pelletier found Surowiec at the bottom of the left faceoff circle with a pretty no-look pass that caught Plymouth State off guard and Surowiec banged the shot into the upper left corner of the net before PSU junior goalie Gordon Ceasar could get over to the post.
Neither side scored during the second period with Norwich outshooting Plymouth State 12-4. Plymouth State had the best scoring chance of the period with Riley Flanagan getting absolutely robbed by NU sophomore goalie Ty Reichenbach with 6:44 left in the period. Flanagan fired a point blank one-timer toward the right corner of the net by Reichenbach flashed the leather with his glove to make the highlight-reel save and keep NU up 2-1.
Pelletier gave Norwich what initially was an insurance goal at the 13:18 mark of the third period and turned out to the game-winning goal with his second of the night and his 16th of the season.
Pelletier shoveled a backhand into the net off assists from Alec Brandrup (Rochester, Minn.) and Tyler Piacentini (South Weymouth, Mass.) to give NU a two-goal cushion.
Plymouth State wouldn't go quietly though as the Panthers responded at the 15:32 mark on a goal by Ian McGilvrey off an assist from Tord Thoresen to cut the deficit to 3-2.
That's as close as Plymouth State would get though as Norwich buckled down defensively. Piacentini made a huge play in the waning seconds, sacrificing his body in front of a cannon slap shot from Zach Sarig to deflect the puck away from the Norwich goal and preserve the victory.
Reichenbach made 15 saves for Norwich to improve to 15-1-1 on the year. Ceasar made 31 saves for Plymouth State, finishing the season with a 15-5-3 record.
With the victory, Norwich advances to take on NESCAC champion Amherst (21-4-2) in the Quarterfinal round next Saturday, March 21 at 7 p.m. at Orr Rink. Amherst received a bye after defeating Williams 1-0 in the NESCAC title game last Saturday.
In other First Round action, Oswego State defeated Hobart 6-1 and Trinity beat Nichols 4-2. The other three Quarterfinal matchups will feature Oswego State traveling to Adrian, Trinity hosting Plattsburgh State and Hamline traveling to Wis. Stevens Point.
Norwich improved to 25-13-2 all-time in NCAA Tournament games and will look to make their fifth NCAA Division III Frozen Four appearance in the last six seasons with one more victory over Amherst.