NORTHFIELD, Vt. – The Norwich University men's ice hockey team scored four goals in the first period of Saturday's Northfield Savings Bank Holiday Tournament championship game, and then held off a furious third-period comeback by Williams College to escape with a 4-3 win at Kreitzberg Arena.
Senior forward William Pelletier (St. Jean Chrysostome, Quebec) scored two goals and notched an assist to claim the Northfield Savings Bank Holiday Tournament Most Valuable Player award for the fourth straight season. Pelletier tallied five points on the weekend to complete the impressive streak of capturing Norwich's holiday tournament MVP award every season of his career.
No. 5 nationally-ranked Norwich (12-1-1, 8-1-0 NEHC) won its eighth straight game with the victory and clinched its third Northfield Savings Bank Holiday Tournament title in the last four seasons. The Cadets have won their own holiday tournament 12 times in the 18 years of its existence.
Pelletier opened the scoring just 1:20 into the game when he scored on a rebound after Williams' starting goalie Michael Pinios made an initial save on a shot by Kevin Salvucci (Plymouth, Mass.). Pelletier was first to the puck and slapped the rebound into a wide open cage to make it 1-0 Cadets.
Norwich added three more goals in a span of 2:10 late in the first period to take a commanding 4-0 lead into the first intermission.
Freshman Ian Williams (Milestone, Saskatchewan) scored his third goal of the season off assists from Connor Evangelista (Wakefield, Mass.) and Pelletier at the 15:25 mark to stretch the lead to 2-0. Williams got a rebound after Evangelista had a shot blocked from the point in front. The rebound kicked out to Williams and he wristed it past Pinios before he could recover.
Russell notched his fifth of the year at the 17:11 mark of the third period collecting a loose puck that hit off the crossbar on a shot by Todd Jackson (Holly Springs, N.C.) Senior forward Tyler Piacentini (South Weymouth, Mass.) picked up the secondary assist.
Pelletier scored what would prove to be the game-winning goal just 24 seconds later to cap the Cadets' impressive first period when he lifted a puck over the shoulder of Pinios off an assist from Evangelista.
Neither team scored again until nearly the midway point of the third period when Williams finally started to claw its way back into the game, taking advantage of multiple power play opportunities and cashing in each time.
Tyler Young finally broke up NU starting goalie Ty Reichenbach's (Billings, Mont.) shutout at the 9:12 mark of the third period, scoring off a scrum in front of the net with David Italiano and CJ Shugart getting initial whacks at the puck in front of the net.
The Ephs (4-3-2) cut the lead to 4-2 at the 14:23 mark with a beautiful redirection tip by Roberto Cellini in the slot on George Hunkele's shot from the point. Cellini tipped the puck into the bottom right corner of the net to beat Reichenbach.
Norwich called timeout to try and slow down Williams' momentum but the Ephs kept coming and capitalized on their third power play goal of the third period just 15 seconds into an interference penalty on Piacentini.
Sam Gray fed the puck from the half boards back to Mork at the point, who immediately sent it down low to Shugart standing on top of the crease and he tipped the puck into the top left corner of the net to make it 4-3 with a pretty tic-tac-toe passing play.
Williams pulled Stephen Morrissey for an extra skater for the final 34 seconds, but the Ephs were unable to find the equalizer as NU cleared the puck down the ice and into the Williams goal just seconds after the buzzer went out. Morrissey was terrific in relief of Pinios, stopping all 19 shots he faced in 41:51 of action.
Reichenbach made 32 saves for Norwich to improve to 5-1-1 on the year.
Pelletier was joined on the All-Tournament team by Salvucci and junior goalie Braeden Ostepchuk, who picked up the win in goal Friday's 3-1 victory over Nazareth.
Williams' Shugart, Mork and Young were named to the All-Tournament team along with Nazareth's Austin Romzek.
Norwich returns to action on Friday, Jan. 6 when it travels to Plattsburgh State for a non-conference showdown with the Cardinals at 7 p.m. in the Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena.