Hartford, Conn. - Trinity College first-year defender Michael Grande (Des Plaines, Ill.) scored his first collegiate career goal while senior goaltender Alex Morin (St. Hubert, Quebec) tallied his fifth shut-out of the season to lead the Trinity College Bantams to a 3-0 victory over the visiting Middlebury College Panthers in New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) men's ice hockey action this afternoon at Williams Rink in the Koeppel Community Sports Center. Trinity, ranked No. 5 in the nation, has won their last nine games and improves to 15-3-2 overall and 12-1-1 in NESCAC play, while the Panthers fall to 4-14-2 on the year and 2-10-2 in league action. Trinity will travel to Maine next weekend as they take on league rival Colby College on Saturday at 7 pm.
Trinity, the first place team in the NESCAC standings, came out with high intensity against the Middlebury Panthers, the last place team. In the 14th minute, Trinity's power-play skaters created a close scoring opportunity with quick passes from Anthony Sabitsky (Sicklerville, N.J.) to Tyler Whitney (Wakefield, Mass.) to Liam Feeney (Foxboro, Mass.) for a slap shot on goal, which was saved by Panther goaltender. After a Trinity penalty, Middlebury followed up with a scoring chance when Panther forward Alex Heinritz hit the pipe. Despite the scoreless first period, Trinity won the shot-count 12-8 and came out with energy and high pressure to keep the puck in the Middlebury zone. Middlebury's senior goaltender Stephen Klein also made key saves to keep the score 0-0.
After a scoreless first period where both teams combined for 20 shots, the scoring ramped up in the final 40 minutes of action. Early in the second period, Trinity forwards missed a pair of open-net shots, while Morin continued to make saves for the Bantams. In the 14th minute, on Middlebury's power play, Trinity forward Andy Chugg (Scottsdale, Ariz.) pressured a Panther defender one-on-one and came away with a steal and shot on goal. Finally, with a little under 3 minutes left in the period and the Bantams with an extra-skater on the power play, rookie defender Grande skated from left to right and cranked the puck into the top shelf to make the score 1-0. The assist was rewarded to junior forward Ryan Pfeffer (Canton, Mass.). Trinity senior goaltender Alex Morin (St. Hubert, Quebec) kept the visitors scoreless with several clutch saves.
In the final period, Trinity increased their lead with a pair of goals. In the 14th minute, junior forward Mark Knowlton (Colorado Springs, Colo.) dug the puck out from behind the Panther net and quickly found teammate Pfeffer for an easy tap in behind Middlebury goaltender to make the score 2-0 in favor of the Bantams. Charlie Zuccarini (Shelton, Conn.) was also rewarded the assist. Later in the period, Morin was slightly out of position giving first-year Eric Jeremiah a wide-open net, but Jeremiah was unable to convert for Panthers. With 4:30 remaining in the game, Middlebury pulled their goaltender and put pressure on the Bantam defense as a final push to get on the scoreboard. The Panthers played with an extra-skater until 2:44 when the Bantams regained possession and Sabitsky found Nicholas Polsinelli (Galloway, N.J.) from the corner for an easy shot on an empty net to take the lead to 3-0. In the remaining time, Middlebury fired a series of shots that Morin successfully saved. Panther goaltender Klein ended the night with 35 saves while Morin saved all 24 shots he faced, which was his 2nd shut-out against Middlebury and 5th shut-out of the season. Trinity was 1-for-4 on power plays and Middlebury was 0-for-2 with the extra skater. Trinity returns to the ice next weekend against Colby and Bowdoin.