May 2, 2014

Galluzzo, Saunders Send NEC to NCAA Tourney

from press release

CASTLETON, Vt. - Castleton carried a 10-7 lead into the final quarter, but New England College outscored the Spartans 6-1 in the final frame to claim a 13-11 win and their first North Atlantic Conference championship since 2012, avenging last year's finals loss.

Skyler Saunders led the NEC offense with five goals, including the eventual game-winner. Three other Pilgrims finished with two goals apiece. Chris Galluzzo finished with 17 saves to earn the victory in net and Tournament MVP honors as the visiting squad upended the hosting Spartans.

Zach Davidson finished with three goals and an assist and Alex Green notched a pair of goals and a pair of assists to lead the Castleton offense. Will Stuhler and Alex Denny each scored a pair of goals as well, but it wasn't enough to outgun the Pilgrims.

Pat Miles led the Pilgrims' defense with 10 ground balls and three caused turnovers. James Carlson forced four turnovers for the Pilgrims. The Castleton defensive effort was led by Alex Noonan who finished with three turnovers. Owen Hartman forced two turnovers for the home team. Luc Leblanc led the squad with eight groundballs, going 13-18 in the faceoff circle. Pete Latulippe finished with 17 saves, but took the loss in net.

New England College took the lead on a blistering shot from Cam Scully that beat Latulippe top-shelf to put the Pilgrims ahead 1-0. Will Stuhler answered for the Spartans with a goal of his own. The big forward beat a defender, attacked the crease, and found the net with 8:33 left in the first quarter.

NEC grabbed a pair of consecutive goals to take a 3-1 lead on back-to-back goals from Adam Shute and Nick Herzog. The Spartans trailed by two goals with 4:40 left, and turned to the Conference Player of the Year to change their fate. Zach Davidson buried a shot to make it 3-2. Skyler Saunders put in a goal before the first quarter finished, giving the Pilgrims a two-goal lead entering the break.

In the second frame, Davidson found the net again to open the quarter's scoring. The junior tallied his 56th goal of the season to bring the Spartans back to within one goal at 4-3. Davidson continued to dictate the Spartans' offense, finding Alex Denny for the game-tying goal with 11:13 remaining in the second.

The game continued its back-and-forth pace throughout the second quarter, but in the final five minutes the action heated up. Louis Alhage scored a goal putting the Spartans ahead 5-4. The freshman stepped up in a huge moment to lift the Spartans with 3:55 left in the half.

Trailing by a goal, the Pilgrims found a way to tie the game with 1:31 remaining in the half. Cam Scully beat a Castleton defender and worked his way to the net for an open shot, beating Latulippe to tie the game at 5-5. Just six seconds later, the Spartans regained the lead. Luc Leblanc won the ensuing faceoff, flipped the ball up to himself and found Alex Green who cranked a worm-burner to beat Galluzzo to put Castleton ahead 6-5. The final 1:25 ticked off the clock and the Spartans took their one-goal lead into halftime.

Two runs, one by Castleton and the other by New England College, defined the second half. The Spartans rattled off four of the first five goals in the first quarter to extend their lead to 10-6 with 5:07 remaining in the third. Davidson, Will Stuhler, Sean Paradis, and Alex Green each scored for the Spartans as they extended their lead to the largest of the game.

In the final minutes of the third quarter, the tides began to turn. Nick Herzog scored with 3:38 left in the third frame to cut the lead to 10-7. In the fourth quarter, Liam Peck dished out a couple of assists to begin the frame, cutting the lead to 10-9. He found Sean Largay and Adam Shute in succession to make it a one-goal game.

Castleton's Alex Denny scored with 6:46 left to extend their lead to 11-9, but the Pilgrims came storming back. In the final six minutes, the visiting squad took over the game. Saunders buried a goal with 6:14 left, followed by another score from Miles with 4:37 remaining to tie the game. In the final four minutes, Saunders put his team on his back, carrying the Pilgrims with a pair of late goals to lock up the victory and secure the NAC title.

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