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Hockey Places Second in Championship Playoffs

By Hana Ohkawa
staff reporter

The men's ice hockey team finished second in the 1997 North East Collegiate Hockey Association Championship playoffs.

The team fell short of winning the championship with a close loss to the dreaded Central Connecticut State University Blue Devils on March 2.

The day before, the team upset a local powerhouse, Bryant College. On Feb. 28, the Engineers upended Johnson and Wales University in double overtime.

MIT is bedeviled by CCSU, 32

The team's game against CCSUwas their third in three days. MIT and CCSU have a long rivalry. The Blue Devils were the only team to beat the Engineers twice last season. In their two meetings this season, MIT lost 65 and tied 22. CCSU has been particularly adept at shutting down the MIT power play.

Though both teams came out of the locker rooms determined and enthusiastic, the Engineers seemed a little tired from their two hard-fought victories. CCSU definitely had the edge in the first period. Midway through the period, CCSU standout Steve Roberts scored, with a textbook tip-in.

CCSU then had two nearly consecutive penalties, one for hitting after the whistle, the other for checking from behind. The Blue Devils played a man-down formation that the Engineers had not seen this season. MIT was unable to adjust and score on either penalty.

MIT rallied in the second, with a goal by John Rae '99, off an assist by Buddy Webb '97, to tie the score at 11. The Engineers had another power play opportunity with eight minutes remaining in the second but were again unable to convert.

Shortly after, veteran defenseman Steve Schlueter '97 was called for hitting after the whistle. Schlueter and a Blue Devil player were skating full speed down the ice, chasing a possibly iced puck. Not sure that icing would be called, Schlueter lined up to check the Blue Devil player. By the time the whistle was blown, Schlueter was unable to stop.

This penalty proved costly: without lead defenseman Schlueter, the short-handed Engineers were extremely vulnerable. CCSU scored four seconds into the penalty, taking a 21 lead. A few minutes later, Rae was sent to the box, and CCSU again scored on the power play, putting them ahead 31.

The Engineers were discouraged but not yet defeated. Halfway through the third period, Greg Donaldson '00 scored a power play goal to cut the CCSU lead to one, 32. MIT fought valiantly, but CCSU did an excellent job of putting up a defensive wall. At the buzzer CCSU prevailed 32.

Though the playoffs ended in defeat, the Engineers impressed everyone with their determination and high quality play. CCSU Head Coach Dave Roberts said, "MIT deserves a ton of credit."

"Coming in a third seed and beating two top powers they have a lot to be proud of, and we're just happy we could squeak by," Roberts said.

Head Coach Keller was gracious in defeat. "I'm extremely proud of the way we played these three days, in three one-goal games. We beat what the [American Collegiate Hockey Association] considers the best team in the region,"he said. "If there's an MVP for the tournament I would have to say it should be John Zehren ['99]. He played an outstanding tournament and saved the game against Johnson and Wales."

The team received a trophy for being the tournament's runner-up finisher. The trophy is on display at the Johnson AthleticsCenter.

MIT defeats Bryant College

The Engineers defeated Bryant College, the New England Conference regular season champions to enter the conference championship game. The last meeting between these two teams ended in a 11 tie, a tribute to the skills of both goalies. In contrast to Johnson and Wales, the Bryant Bulldogs did not have any stars but did have good depth.

Rae continued to be the most casualty-producing weapon in the MIT arsenal. His goal in the first period gave MIT a 10 lead which they took into the locker room.

A component of Bryant's offensive strategy was to slap shot the puck at the goal instead of dumping it into the zone. As a result, there were many shots taken from near the blue line. Inexplicably, during the second period, one of these shots wedged its way through Zehren's pads and dribbled into the net, tying the score at one.

Rae scored again in the second period to give MIT a 21 lead going into the third. Bryant tied the score minutes later.

Donaldson broke the tie with six minutes remaining, off a terrific pass from defenseman Jim Goodman G.

MIThas double-overtime win

The Johnson andWales Griffins are the top-ranked team from the region and will represent New England in the ACHA Playoffs. They also boast the number one scorer in the league, wing Mark Deveaux.

The Engineers took an early lead. Just three minutes into the game, MIT wing Jonathan Bennett '98 found the five hole with a slap shot from the right side. The Griffins came right back, scoring two goals to take the lead, 21, with 6:14 left in the period.

Just 14 seconds later, MIT defenseman Schlueter found wing Rae in the open, who scored the first of his four goals. Only 13 seconds after Rae's goal, Engineer center Tetsu Inada '97 put a slap shot in the upper left corner to give MIT a 32 lead.

Two minutes later, the Griffins tied the score with a well-placed wrist shot. The back and forth continued with another Rae goal just 30 seconds later. Rae shot over a Griffin defenseman who was sliding skate-first towards him and placed the puck in the upper right corner.

The Engineers held the 43 lead until five minutes into the second period, when the Griffins scored again. The score remained tied at four until MIT center Donaldson scored with one minute left in the period.

MIT increased their lead to 64 with another Rae goal a minute into the third period. But the Griffins began to rally. Head Coach Lou Izzi started to play only two lines, improving the quality of the Griffin play and making the Engineers' third line vulnerable to attack.

This strategy proved effective. Midway through the third period, the Griffins scored a power play goal, heart-breakingly with only three seconds left on the penalty. Four minutes later, the Griffins tied the score, with a shot to the far side getting over a diving Rae, and slipping past goalie Zehren.

The score remained tied at six in spite of multiple scoring chances for both sides. Then, with less than 30 seconds left in regulation play, Deveaux had a breakaway.

Alone against Zehren, Deveaux chose to go glove side. Zehren snatched the puck from the air and showed the referee, the fans, and Deveaux that the puck was in his possession and that MIT was still alive.

As play went into sudden-death overtime, the tension in the arena was palpable. The diving bodies, hard hits, and fast skating showed that both teams were giving their all. Neither team was able to score in the five-minute overtime period, so the game went into double overtime.

As the second overtime period began, the shouts of the fans had reached a fever pitch. Rae already had a hat trick, and the team knew he had a hot hand this night.

Rae had the puck in front of the net. He shot the puck, it bounced off a defenseman's skate, hit the goalie in the chest, rolled over his shoulder, and crossed the goal line. MIT won, 76.