Top 12 of 2012: #3 Men's Hockey Downs #1 Norwich University (1/14)
This is the tenth in our Top 12 of 2012 series. Every day for the rest of 2012, we will count down the Top 12 moments/games of the year with each program represented. With two Little East Conference Champions, a handful of wins against nationally ranked teams and several program firsts-2012 was quite the year.
How do you possibly top a no-hitter? How about beating the #1 team in the country and a conference opponent you haven't defeated in the regular-season in over two decades.
That's exactly what Men's Hockey pulled off January 14 when they squared off against 11-0-1 Norwich University at the Clark Athletic Center. Add in the fact that that it was the Beacons first-ever win against a top-five nationally ranked team, and the Beacons win was one of the most historic victories in program history.
After wading through a tough fall semester in 2011, the Beacons looked like a different team to begin 2012 behind goaltender Kevin Bendel and a semester under the belt of the team's freshman class.
UMass Boston jumped all over the Cadets in the first period, recording five of the first six shots, before lighting up the scoreboard with shot number six. Junior Mike DeGrazia (Novi, Mich.) put the Beacons ahead 8:06 into the contest off of passes from Bryan Albert and and Travis Daniel (North Brunswick, N.J.).
But it was a goal less than three minutes later that gave the Beacons all the momentum they would need; Daniel found the rebound off of a DeGrazia shot and rammed it home off the near post to make the Beacons crowd go wild.
Riding the 2-0 lead, UMass Boston played Norwich even for the rest of the period, going into the break with an 8-7 lead in shots.
The Cadets would turn it up in the second period, forcing Bendel to make 18 saves in the stanza, including shutting down Norwich on four power-play opportunities.
Norwich's high-powered offense continued to pressure Bendel in the third with 15 saves through the first 19 minutes of the period. The Cadets finally got on the board with 55 seconds to play when they brought on the extra-attacker.
With just 55 seconds between them and a program-shifting victory, UMass Boston stymied the Cadets, throwing their bodies in front of the puck and clearing the zone several times. With just four seconds to go, Norwich won the faceoff but the team's shot deflected off of a Beacon and hit the boards as the buzzer sounded-sending the Beacons players into a frenzy.
UMass Boston used the momentum from the win to down #4 Castleton State College just two weeks later and made a run up the ECAC East Standings to finish fifth in the league. This year the Beacons been even better, earning the first ever national ranking and running out to a 7-2-1 record-their best start in two decades.