HENNIKER, N.H.--Sophomore Mike Whitehair (Victor, N.Y.) scored 2:30 into overtime to lift second-seeded New England College to a 3-2 victory over third-seeded Babson College in a New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) Tournament semifinal on Saturday night at Lee Clement Arena.
Babson (15-9-3), which was seeking its fifth straight conference tournament championship game appearance, was seventh in this week's NCAA regional rankings and now must wait and see if its name is called when the NCAA Tournament field is released next Sunday night. New England College (19-7-0), which collected its eighth consecutive victory, advances to its first league title game since 2007.
Senior Dan Casey (Chatham, N.J.) and junior Matt McMorrow (Pearl River, N.Y.) each scored once, while senior Bill Seligman (Toronto, Ontario) and junior Joe DePietto (Westbury, N.Y.) both finished with an assist for the Beavers. Sophomore goaltender Bryan Botcher (Mequon, Wis.) stopped 19 shots in defeat.
Sophomore Connor Fries (Barnstable, Mass.) recorded a goal and an assist and senior Chris Santello (Fairfield, Conn.) finished with two assists for the Pilgrims, who got 43 saves from senior netminder Brett Kilar (Coto de Caza, Calif.).
The Green and White jumped on top 1-0 at 10:22 of the first period when McMorrow stuffed home the rebound of a shot by DePietto for the first postseason goal of his career. New England College blocked four shots to kill off a roughing penalty at the 12:17 mark, and then tied the game on first-year Carlos Fornaris' (Miami, Fla.) ninth tally of the year at 16:22 of the first.
Kilar made a pair of saves on Babson's second power play of the night late in the first period, and the Pilgrims took their first lead of the game when Fries buried a rebound just 3:19 into the second. The Beavers outshot the hosts 14-8 in the second period, but were unable to pull even until Casey notched his fourth career postseason goal 8:50 into the third period.
The Green and White held a 17-7 edge in third-period shots, but were unable to solve Kilar, who finished with more than 40 saves for the sixth time this winter. New England College recorded the only two shots of the extra session and notched the game-winning tally when Whitehair scored on his backhand off a feed from sophomore Andreas Zollner (Varnamo, Sweden) less than three minutes into the period.
The Beavers, who finished 0-for-3 on the power play, finished with a 45-22 edge in shots.
The Pilgrims went 0-for-1 on the power play and were credited with 31 blocked shots on the night.
New England College will take on top-ranked Norwich next Saturday in the NEHC championship game.
- The Beavers are now 39-20-6 all-time against New England College.
- Babson is 0-2-3 in overtime this season and each of its last three conference tournament losses have come in OT.
- Saturday's loss was the first for the Beavers in nine conference tournament semifinal games going back to 2007.
- Babson is 7-4 this season in games decided by a single goal.