MIT Hockey Wins NECHA ChampionshipSports Writer
There is nothing quite like saving your best for last. The MIT men's hockey team provided a happy ending to this year's success story by defeating a fine Worcester Polytechnic Institute team 5-2 on Sunday at the Johnson Athletic Center. The victory gave MIT the New England College Hockey Association Division I North tournament championship. Playing arguably their finest hockey of the season, MIT gave their fans a fond farewell as they controlled the game nearly from start to finish.
MIT (20-4) took the lead for good late in the first period and never looked back. Rob Silva '93 stole a WPI clearing pass at the blue line and skated down the right side of the offensive zone, drawing the lone WPI defender toward him. Silva deftly passed the puck to linemate Mike Mini '93, who executed his favorite goal-scoring maneuver, faking a shot before turning the puck over to his backhand and sliding it through the crease. Mini's goal made the score 2-1 in favor of the Beavers. Earlier Alain Curodeau G had given MIT a 1-0 lead by scoring on a rebound off a shot by Noel Nistler G.
But WPI (21-6) has a gritty and talented team, and played MIT evenly for most of the first period, finally tying the game at 1-1 with three minutes left in the first. MIT reclaimed the momentum with Mini's goal one minute later. John C. Simmons '95 played a solid first period in goal for the Beavers, but Miles Arnone G took over at the start of the second period.
The sight of Arnone between the pipes in his last game for MIT seemed to inspire the Beavers. Or it may have just been leftover momentum from the first period. Whatever the reason, MIT's offense took off at the start of the second period like the acceleration of a new Saturn automobile. Curodeau scored his second goal of the game on a tremendous effort just one minute into the period.
Curodeau was tripped as he crossed the WPI blue line, but the referee declined to call a penalty. Mike Foley G carried the puck into the WPI zone, where Curodeau took matters into his own hands. He took a pass, then skated to his right before ripping a slap shot along the ice back to the left. The WPI goalie had moved to his left to cut off the angle on Curodeau, but he was left to watch helplessly as the puck skimmed off the post to his right and into the goal.
Mini knocked in a rebound of shots by Silva and Nick Pearce '94 to raise the Beavers' lead to 4-1. At this point, MIT was threatening to run WPI all the way to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, but the referee kindly stepped in, calling four consecutive penalties on the Beavers. WPI scored a badly needed goal on their first power-play chance to shave the Beavers' lead to two goals. But MIT killed off the next three penalties thanks to hard work by Captain Jason Krieser '92 and John Cushing G, among others.
MIT was still shorthanded at the start of the third period, but the Beavers dominated more and more as the period wore on. WPI rarely challenged the MIT goal, and when they did Arnone was there to say no. MIT closed out the scoring on a Pearce goal with seven minutes left in the contest. Mini stole a WPI pass and fed it to Silva. The towering center cut loose a screaming slap shot that trickled through the legs of the WPI goalie. Pearce had hustled down to the goal and slapped it into the net for a 5-2 Beaver lead.
Semifinals led up to victory
In Saturday night's semifinals, WPI defeated Wentworth, 9-4, and MIT beat Salve Regina, 6-3. Captain Gene McKenna '92 and Foley scored important goals, each time propelling the Beavers into the lead. In all, six different Beavers scored against Salve Regina. Dan Lee G, Mini, Silva, and Pearce joined McKenna and Foley in lighting up the scoreboard.
Silva centers a line with Pearce and Mini which has become known as the `Bruise Brother'. This weekend they combined to leave the opposition bruised, scoring six goals and tallying 17 points. But the story of this team is the depth and contributions made by every member. Coach Quinn piloted MIT to its best record in history, and the loyal fans were appreciative as the Beavers received their championship trophy.
The trophy, a cup mounted on top of a wooden stand, has past champions engraved at the base. WPI won in 1988 and 1990, but was forced to make room this year for the Beavers. The players showed their appreciation of the trophy during the post-game celebration, particularly after leaving the locker room. But the highlight of the evening was a championship visit by MIT President Charles M. Vest. The entire team was flattered by the appearance of Vest, who showed he knows how to do more than just run an institute of higher learning.
The Beavers' 1991-92 season ranks among the highest achievements in the history of MIT team sports. Everyone from the coaching staff to the athletic department to the tremendous fans had a part in the success. But in the end, it was the hard work, talents, and unity of the team that produced the NECHA Division I North Championship.