Men’s Hockey: Norwich opens season with 3-1 win over Nichols

Courtesy Norwich Sports Information

NORTHFIELD – The Norwich University men’s ice hockey team opened the 2015-16 season with a 3-1 win over Nichols College on Friday night at Kreitzberg Arena in non-conference action.

Juniors Nick Pichette (Massena, N.Y.), Paul Russell (Andover, Mass.) and Tyler Piacentini (South Weymouth, Mass.) also scored goals for the Cadets to lead the offense as they won their 18th straight game at home.

Norwich (1-0-0, 0-0-0 NEHC) struck with two first period goals 1:33 apart from Russell and Pichette midway through to build up a lead it would never look back from.

Russell opened the scoring at the 10:40 mark when he slammed home a rebound at the top of the crease after Nichols’ senior goalie Alex Larson made an initial save on a backhand shot by Brendan Boyce (St. Albans, Vt.).

Freshman Austin Evans (Whistler, British Columbia) picked up his first collegiate point by winning a puck battle along the boards and then slipping it back to Boyce at the bottom of the right face-off circle. Boyce flipped the puck on his backhand toward the net but Larson got a pad on it. The rebound kicked out to the top of the crease where Russell crashed the net and slammed it home to put the Cadets up 1-0.

Norwich added to its lead just moments later with Pichette cashing in on a power play opportunity after Nichols’ Matthew Menta was whistled for tripping.

The Cadets needed just 15 seconds to make the Bison pay as Pichette lifted the puck over the sprawled out right pad of Larson on a feed from Kevin Salvucci (Plymouth, Mass) to make it 2-0 Norwich.

Pichette was all alone on the doorstep of the crease and Salvucci slid the pass through a Nichols’ defender’s stick allowing Pichette time to settle the pass and flip it calmly over Larson. Justin Charbonneau (Bromont, Quebec) also picked up a secondary assist after working a give and go out of the corner with Salvucci.

Norwich outshot Nichols 16-4 in the opening period and neither side was able to score in the middle stanza after the Cadets held a slim 7-6 shots on goal lead in the second period.

Nichols (0-1-0, 0-0-0 ECAC Northeast) got on the board at the 17:41 mark of the third period with Larson pulled for an extra skater. Paul Prescott slipped the puck in off a scrum in front of the net with Ben Campbell and Tyler Beasley picking up assists on the goal.

Norwich added an empty-net goal from Piacentini with 13 seconds left in the game to cap the scoring on the night and cement the victory.

Larson, who led Division III in save percentage last season was terrific all night long for Nichols, turning aside 33 shots to take a tough-luck loss.

Sophomore goalie Braeden Ostepchuk (Lethbridge, Alberta) picked up the victory after splitting the game with junior Ty Reichenbach (Billings, Mont.). Ostepchuk got the start, turning aside all six shots he faced. Reichenbach made nine saves in relief.

Norwich returns to action next weekend with a road trip to Southern Maine and the University of New England to open the inaugural season of New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) play.

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