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MIT Men’s Hockey Championship Hopes Dashed by Eagles, Billikens

By Shao-Fei Moy

The men’s ice hockey team dropped a heartbreaking match in their second came of the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Championships against Life College, a chiropractic university in Georgia, yesterday at the ‘E’ Center in West Valley City, Utah. MIT lost 6-4 to the two-time defending champions, eliminating their chances of advancing to the semifinals.

Wednesday, the Engineers lost 5-2 to St. Louis University in the first game of pool play. The Engineers, although outsized, fought hard against the St. Louis squad. Unfortunately they were outplayed by the Billikens and were handed their first lost of the tournament.

MIT faces University of California, Los Angeles today in their final match of pool play.

MIT faces strong St. Louis defense

MIT set the tone for most of the first period in Wednesday’s game with their aggressive play; however, none of the numerous shots on goal were able to penetrate the St. Louis defense. The Engineers were able to keep the Billikens on their heals with their attacks until captain John Rae ’99 was called for a controversial holding penalty with 4:41 remaining in the period. The penalty gave the Billikens a one-man advantage over the Engineers. Shortly after Rae was put in the penalty box, goalie John Zehren ’99 lost his stick in a chaotic scramble in front of the MIT goal. In an attempt regain control of his stick, Zehren opened up an opportunity to the Billikens. With 4:20 remaining in the period, St. Louis sneaked a powerplay goal by Zehren. St. Louis continued to hold off a flurry of MIT attack to close the period out with a 1-0 lead.

At the start of the second period, St. Louis came out skating more aggressively, challenging MIT with several shots on goal. Zehren, one of the top goalies in the nation, was able to turn away several attacks by St. Louis. With 3:32 gone by, MIT was offered their first powerplay opportunity on a St. Louis slashing penalty. The Engineers were unable to take advantage of the short-handed opponent, as St. Louis was able to defend their ice by clearing the puck from their zone on a number of occasions.

Two minutes after St. Louis killed the powerplay opportunity the Billikens were able to trickle a shot by Zehren who was screened out. With 8:57 remaining St. Louis struck again, scoring off an uncontested wrist shot. St. Louis’ final goal of the period came after a face-off in the MIT zone.

The Billikens held a commanding 4-0 lead before the Engineers were finally able to get on the scoreboard. Gregory W. Donaldson ’00 assisted by Michael Woods ’00 and Shane Swenson ’01 flicked a shot by the St. Louis goalie with 4:47 remaining in the period. Despite several more attacks by MIT before the end of the second period, St. Louis was able to hold a 4-1 advantage at the sound of the horn.

MIT started the final period desperately in need of goals. The determined attack by the Engineers resulted in a goal by Paul Schillings 4:30 into the third period. The goal came off an assist by Brett M. McKeone G who put the puck right in front of the goalie crease. Cutting the deficit to just two temporarily rejuvenated the Engineers' offense. A vicious assault on the St. Louis goal ensued; however MIT's attempt to get back into the game was thwarted by impressive goal tending. With 9:32 remaining in the game, a minor scuffle led to offsetting penalties that put one player from each team in the penalty box. St. Louis’ final goal off an open ice slapshot that beat Zehren at 8:52 remaining closed MIT out. With a comfortable 5-2 lead, the Billikens played defensive hockey until time expired.

MIT loses second game in overtime

In yesterday’s game, The Life College Skating Eagles came out strong, attacking the MIT defense for the majority of the first period. However, Zehren successfully protected the goal with several spectacular saves. The Engineer offense showed some aggression after the Eagles were called for an interference penalty early in the game. A minute and a half into the first period it appeared that MIT took a 1-0 lead on a rebound but the goal was nullified by a high-sticking call.

With 15:48 remaining, Donaldson put back a missed shot by Woods to give MIT a 1-0 lead. The Eagles threatened again with a shot that was deflected by Zehren and narrowly missed crossing the blue line. An MIT defenseman was able to safely clear it from the crease.

Inspired by their phenomenal defense, MIT struck again on a two-on-one breakaway. Avishai Gellar ’01 attempted a shot, only to be blocked by the goalie, but McKeone put the Engineers up 2-0 by scoring on the rebound.

Zehren continued his excellent performance by turning away a flurry of close-up shots and put-back attempts by the Eagles. However, the fine defensive play broke down with less than two minutes remaining when a Life attacker was able to get behind the two MIT defensemen to take a long pass and score a shorthanded breakaway goal. The Engineers had a few more chances to score before the end of the period, but were stopped by Life’s nationally ranked goalie.

Life started the second period with a more physical attack. They were able to tie the game at 2-2 only 0:28 into the period with a close range wrist shot. Undaunted by the hard-hitting Eagles, MIT came back with a goal of their own. Geller put MIT back up with a powerplay goal off of an assist by Donaldson.The Eagles launched another attack on the MIT goal with a series of short-range shots, one of which bounced off the goal post. Zehren made several outstanding stops to keep the Engineers ahead. With 5:53 left, MIT increased its lead to 4-2 with a sharp angle goal by Captain John Rae ’99. The goal was scored after Life lost control of the puck in an attempt to clear the puck from the blue zone. During the final minutes of the second period, a hooking penalty on Rae opened an opportunity for Life. The Eagles scored a powerplay goal with only 1:20 remaining to draw within one point of MIT going into the third period.

The Eagles came out firing once again at the start of the third period. Although Zehren was able to stop a number of attacks, Life tied the game 4-4 on a phenomenal cross-ice pass that set up a sure goal. The score disheartened the MIT offense as they were unable to penetrate the Eagle’s defense. The fired up Life team took advantage of the lackluster MIT attacks and scored another goal on a long slap shot that beat Zehren with 14:37 remaining.

With the Eagles up 5-4 and time ticking away, MIT became desperate for a goal late in the third period and pulled Zehren out with a minute remaining to set up a six-man attack. The Engineers' last opportunity came when an Eagle was called for a roughing penalty in the final minute. Unfortunately MIT came up short even with the one-man advantage. Life scored its sixth and final goal on an empty net with only 4.3 seconds remaining.