Hartford, Conn. – Senior forward Cam McDonald (Westford, Mass.) scored twice to lead the visiting Colby College Mules to a 4-1 victory over the Trinity College Bantams in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Men's Ice Hockey Championship Finals this afternoon at Williams Rink in the Koeppel Community Sports Center. Trinity, seeded No. 1 in the tournament and ranked No. 4 in the nation, falls to 19-6-2 and will have to wait until tomorrow morning to find out if it is awarded an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament. No. 6-seeded Colby, which downed Wesleyan, 5-1, in the NESCAC Semifinals in Hartford yesterday, wins its first league title and receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tourney.
The first period was played evenly but scoreless with Trinity holding a slight 12-to-10 shooting edge. Bantam senior forward Tyler Whitney (Wakefield, Mass.) nearly scored on a breakaway in the opening minute but shot just high, and Colby freshman forward Spencer Hewson (Vernon, British Columbia) was denied on a quick wrist shot from five feet away by Trinity senior goaltender Alex Morin (St. Hubert, Quebec) five minutes into the contest. Trinity junior forward Mark Knowlton (Colorado Springs, Colo.) hit the pipe with a shot in transition with three minutes left before the first intermission.
Colby took a 1-0 lead when Morin saved a shot by Hewson but could not stop the rebound bid by Mule junior forward Zack Hale (Minneapolis, Minn.) 2:51 into the second frame. At the 6:43 mark of the second, a Colby shot by senior forward Mario Benicky (Liptovsky Mikulas, Slovakia) was redirected by Hewson and trickled past Morin and over the line for a 2-0 Mule lead.
Trinity cut its deficit in half when senior defenseman Michael Grande (West Chester, Pa.) snuck a shot from the point over the left shoulder of Colby senior goalie Sean Lawrence (Granite Bay, Calif.) with assists credited to senior captain Connor Hegarty (Wakefield, Mass.) and first-year forward Eric Benshadle (Getzville, N.Y.) 4:14 into the final period. The celebration was short-lived, as the Mules silenced the crowd with their third goal of the game right off the ensuing face-off. Mule rookie forward Justin Grillo (Rockville Centre, N.Y.) assisted McDonald on the play and would add a second helper on McDonald's empty netter in the closing minutes.
The Bantams had two opportunities to pull to within one in the final stanza. Colby was whistled for laying on the puck midway through the third, resulting in a Trinity penalty shot, but Lawrence stymied Grande with a stick save. With four minutes left, Whitney received a pass from behind and shot quick from close range on the left side, but Lawrence was able to get in the way for the last of his 38 saves. The Bantams pulled Morin with just over two minutes left but could not put a shot on net before time expired.
Morin finished with 25 saves, and Trinity outshot Colby, 39-29. Each team was penalized once and the Mules did not score on the game's only power play. Trinity, the league champion in 2003, 2008, 2016, and 2017, is now 4-3 in NESCAC Finals and 1-1 in NESCAC Finals played at home. The Mules were playing in their first NESCAC Finals, and become just the fifth school to win the league in the 19-year history of the tournament.