Hartford, Conn. - The Trinity College men's ice hockey team, which defeated Endicott, 2-1, in two overtimes in the NCAA Division III Championship Quarterfinals over the weekend, will make a return trip to the NCAA Final Four, after winning the 2015 NCAA title in Minneapolis, when the Bantams face off against the St. Norbert College Green Knights in the semifinals on Friday, March 24 at 3 p.m. EST at the Utica Memorial Auditorium in Utica, N.Y. Trinity, coached by Matt Greason (6th Season), is 20-6-3 after Saturday night's win, while St. Norbert is 22-5-1 after edging Augsburg, 4-3, in overtime in their quarterfinal game. The winner of Friday's game will advance to the NCAA Division III Championship Finals against either Adrian or Norwich the next evening at 7 p.m. EST.
The Bantams, ranked No. 8 in the D3Hockey.com National Poll and tied for No. 9 in the United States College Hockey Online.com Division III National Poll, finished third in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) standings with a 11-5-2 conference mark before capturing their second consecutive conference crown with a 3-2 overtime at Hamilton in the finals on March 5. Trinity previously reached the tournament in 2003, 2005 and 2008, and 2016, advanced to the NCAA Frozen Four in 2005, and made its historic run through the 2015 tourney to capture the first NCAA crown in program history. That year, Trinity defeated Nichols, 4-2, and Plattsburgh State, 5-1, at home and Adrian, 5-3, and Wisc.-Stevens Point, 5-2, in the NCAA Frozen Four in Minneapolis. The Bantams lost, 4-1, to St. Thomas (Minn.) at Middlebury in the 2005 NCAA Semifinals.
Trinity sat at 3-3 on December 2 but closed the 2016 calendar year with a 3-0-1 mark that included a 4-4 tie at NCAA-bound Hobart and closed with a 2-1 win at fellow NCAA Frozen Four participant Adrian on New Year's Eve Day. The Bantams stumbled with a 2-2 start to the month of January, but have been one of the hottest teams in the country since then with a 12-1-2 record over its last 14 contests and 10 wins in a row. On Saturday, Trinity upended Endicott 4:15 into the second 20-minute overtime on a goal by junior forward Anthony Sabitsky (Sicklerville, N.J.) that was assisted by senior forward Ryan Cole (Anchorage, Alaska). Sabitsky also assisted on the first Trinity goal by senior forward Sean Orlando (Ivyland, Pa.), along with freshman defenseman Liam Feeney (Foxboro, Mass.), that tied the game at 1-1 early in the first period, and junior goaltender Alex Morin (St. Hubert, Quebec) made 49 saves over 84-plus minutes in net.
Trinity owns the top scoring offense in the NESCAC, averaging 4.10 goals per game (11th in nation), as the Bantams boast four of the top-five point producers in the NESCAC, all of whom have accumulated at least 30 points this winter. Orlando has a team-high 18 goals (0.62 per game, T1st in NESCAC) and adds as many assists for a NESCAC-best 36 points, while junior forward Tyler Whitney (Wakefield, Mass.) has a team-high 22 assists to go with 12 goals for 34 points (2nd in NESCAC). Sabitsky has 17 goals (0.59 per game, 3rd in NESCAC) with 16 helpers for 33 points (3rd in NESCAC) and Cole has 32 points (1.10 per game, 5th in NESCAC) on 13 goals, including a nation-best six game-winners, and 18 assists (0.66 per game, 7th in NESCAC). Orlando leads the NESCAC lead in power-play goals with seven, followed by Whitney with six, and Sabitsky with five. Senior forwards Ethan Holdaway (Glastonbury, Conn.) and Brandon Cole (Anchorage, Alaska) have combined for 41 points between them, and first-year forward Barclay Gammill (New Canaan, Conn.) has been a welcomed offensive weapon with 16 points (5th-best in NESCAC among rookies) on nine goals and seven assists in 23 games. Sabitsky was named to the All-NESCAC First Team last week and Orlando graced the All-NESCAC Second Team.
St. Norbert, coached by Tim Coghlin (24th Season), earned the top seed in the NCAA West Region, after winning the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA) title with a 3-2 finals win at Adrian, and downed Augsburg after receiving a bye to the quarterfinal round. This tournament appearance is St. Norbert's 17th, as the Green Knights qualified previously in 1997-99, 2002-08, 2010-14 and 2016. The Green Knights are 28-12-1 all-time in the NCAA tournament and won the 2008, 2011, 2012 and 2014 national titles. The Bantams and the Green Knights have never played each other, although the teams do have a common opponent with each winning at Adrian by a goal this winter. Noah Nelson leads St. Norbert in scoring with eight goals and 19 assists for 27 points, while Tanner Froese adds a team-high 13 goals, and T.J. Black is 17-2-1 with a nation-best 1.22 GAA and a .941 save percentage in the St. Norbert goal.