MARSHFIELD, Mass. – Hobart College defeated Norwich University 3-0 to claim the New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) title in their inaugural season of league play. With the win the Statesmen also punched their ticket to the NCAA Division III Men's Ice Hockey Tournament as they earned the league's automatic-qualification bid.
Hobart's senior goaltender Frank Oplinger (Sewickley, Pa.) was named Most Valuable Player of the Championship after posting 30 saves and earning the shutout victory.
Andrew Longo (Morristown, N.J.) scored the eventual game-winner six minutes into the third period and senior forward Jordan Haskell (Tooele, Utah) added an insurance tally with less than five minutes left in the game to seal the victory for Hobart.
The game was tightly matched from the start with both teams having scoring opportunities but the starting goaltenders in Norwich's Tom Aubrun (Chamonix, France) and Oplinger made impressive saves to keep each team within striking distance throughout.
In the first period Hobart's Will Harrison (Springfield, Va.) ripped a shot that hit off the post. Tanner Shaw (Toronto, Ont.) collected the rebound and blasted another shot but Aubrun made the pad save to keep the Statesmen at bay.
The second period saw much of the same action with both goaltenders coming up with key saves. With just over six minutes to go in the frame Norwich's Kevin Salvucci (Plymouth, Mass.) beat his defender to find himself on the breakaway but Oplinger came up with the kick save to keep the game knotted at zero.
About a minute later Aubrun came up with circus save of his own as he nabbed the puck mid-air from his back to preserve the score at zero. The game remained evenly matched through two periods with Norwich holding the slight edge with 19 shots on goal compared to Hobart's 16.
The beginning of the third period saw much of the same of the back-and-forth action until six minutes ticked by and Longo scored the eventual game-winner to give Hobart the 1-0 lead.
With time winding down on a Cadet penalty Norwich dumped the puck into Hobart's zone and Kale Kane (Kahnawake, Que.) was one-on-one with Oplinger but the senior netminder laid out and came up with the kick save to keep the lead 1-0 in favor of the Statesmen.
The even play continued for another ten minutes until Andrew Silard (Greenwich, Conn.) found Haskell who ripped home his tenth goal of the season to increase the Statesmen lead 2-0.
The Cadets would eventually pull Aubrun in favor of the extra attacker but Lawson MacDougall (Williamstown, Ont.) capitalized and potted the empty net tally with less than 30 seconds on the game clock.
Hobart will learn their matchup for the NCAA Tournament on Monday at 10:30am during the Division III men's ice hockey selection show.
2018 NEHC All-Tournament Team
Forward: Coby Downs, Norwich University
Forward: Andrew Longo, Hobart College
Forward: Jordan Haskell, Hobart College
Defense: Mike Faulkner, Hobart College
Goaltender: Tom Aubrun, Norwich University
Goaltender: Frank Oplinger, Hobart College
Most Valuable Player: Frank Oplinger, Hobart College