AMHERST, Mass. – The Amherst College men's hockey team used an overtime goal by senior co-captain Mike Rowbotham '15 at the 8:12 mark of overtime to give the Jeffs a 4-3 overtime win and punch their ticket to the NCAA Division III Frozen Four on Saturday afternoon at Orr Rink.
Amherst (22-4-2) rallied from one-goal deficits on three different occasions to knot the game at 3-3 at the end of regulation, before Rowbotham's game-winner secured the Jeffs' trip to Minneapolis, Minn. next weekend where it will take on Wisconsin-Stevens Point on Friday, March 27 at 8:30 p.m. at Ridder Arena. The other semifinal contest features Adrian and fellow NESCAC squad Trinity which will begin at 5 p.m. The Purple & White is making its second-ever appearance in the Frozen Four and first since 2012. Norwich concludes its season, 25-4-1 overall.
"Our year has been unique," said head coach Jack Arena '83 following the win. "We've battled injuries the whole way, including tonight, but it doesn't affect our guys and their approach. We have found ways to win, even when we've been out-played."
"We've had to face a ton of adversity all year," added Rowbotham. "We only had three centers tonight, but we've had that approach all along, just find a way to win."
In the opening period, Norwich scored the opening goal in the first period as Justin Charbonneau drove in his sixth of the season off a feed from William Pelletier who picked off Amherst's attempt to clear the puck out of its defensive zone at the 6:46 mark to make it 1-0. Amherst answered less than three minutes later when first-year forward David White netted his team-leading 19th goal of the season. The power play goal featured assists from Topher Flanagan '16 and Rowbotham to even the game at 1-1 and set the tone for the rest of the contest.
Mike Cashman '15 had a chance to put the Purple & White in the lead late in the frame but his blast clanged off the right post, and White sailed a shot just over the cage to keep the game tied at 1-1. Jeffs' senior net-minder Danny Vitale was sharp between the posts in the first 20 minutes, making 12 saves.
In the second, Corey Hale pushed the Cadets ahead, 2-1 when he scored 12:04 into the frame on a slap shot that found the top corner of the net. Dean Niezgoda and Pelletier added the assists on the play.
Just 3:03 later, Andrew Fenwick '15 delivered a crucial game-tying goal on the rebound of a Patrick Arena's '16 shot that missed the target. The puck came back to Fenwick who was able to control and deposit it into the back of the net for his ninth of the season before Norwich goalie Ty Reichenbach could recover to set the score at 2-2.
Despite Norwich owning a 23-8 advantage in shots on goal in the third period, Vitale was sensational, making 22 saves in the stanza. Pelletier was finally able to find the back of the net with just 1:51 to play in regulation and give the Cadets a slim, 3-2 lead.
In the final 38 seconds, Fenwick won a trio of offensive zone faceoffs as Amherst pulled Vitale in favor of an extra skater. With just 13 ticks on the clock, Aaron Deutsch '15 fired in a miraculous shot from the left slot (his seventh of the season) to level the game once more at 3-3 and force overtime.
In the extra period, Norwich held a slight edge in shots, 5-4, but Vitale was there to shut the door on the Cadets. With just over eight minutes elapsed, Rowbotham won an offensive zone faceoff and sent the puck across the goal and into the back of the net off a Norwich stick to send the Jeffs to the NCAA Frozen Four. The goal was Rowbotham's ninth of the campaign.
"It's exciting," said Rowbotham of going back to the Frozen Four. "For the seniors, it's our last go, and taking it as far as we can has been what we've been focused on the whole time. We are going to go there to try and win it."
Vitale (15-3-2) finished with 38 saves in the winning effort, while Reichenbach (15-2-1) suffered the loss for Norwich. The Cadets outshot Amherst, 46-30 in the game but were 0-for-3 on the man advantage. The Purple & White was 1-for-5 on the power play.
Pelletier, Tyler Piacentini and Nick Pichette recorded six shots on goal each for the Cadets.
"I love the character of this team," added Arena. "It's showed itself time and time again. We are certainly excited for the opportunity to go to Minnesota."