Babson outduels UMass Boston in OT, takes home ECAC East crown

Ryan Thomas

Ryan Donovan sat in his crease with his head hung low as Babson College celebrated on the ice. His teammates surrounded him, consoling and congratulating him for an immense effort in net. His 45-save performance just wasn’t enough for UMass Boston though, as the Babson Beavers outlasted UMass Boston in the ECAC East Championship game, 4-3 in overtime, to advance to the NCAA division 3 tournament.

The game-winning goal was due to a UMass Boston turnover behind their own net. Babson’s JT Balben controlled the puck, centered it, and Brad Baldelli snapped it past Donovan to lift Babson with 5:36 left in overtime.

“JT Balben was the first guy in on the forecheck,” Baldelli said, crediting his teammate. “He ended up beating one of UMass Boston’s guys to the puck and just threw it into the high slot and I just tried to collect it and put it on net, and it went in.”

The Beavers exploded into a frenzy after the goal, with gloves, sticks and mouthpieces littering the ice and UMass Boston skating idly away, wondering what could have been.

“Donny [Ryan Donovan] gave us a chance to win,” subdued Beacons head coach Peter Belisle said. “I think we really believed that it was kind of destiny and fate that we got here and we’re going to take advantage and seize the day, seize the opportunity. [We] came awful close. I don’t think you get any closer than that in a championship game.”

Overtime was set up by UMass Boston freshman Jeff Van Siclen, who had replaced an injured Matt Atsoff on the top power play unit. With just 1:47 left in regulation and the Beacons chasing for the equalizer on the power play, Kris Kranzky fed the freshman from behind Babson’s net for a one-timer that beat goalie Andrew Peabody and tied the game at three goals apiece.

The extra period was hectic, with both teams trading scoring chances, escaping close calls on the penalty kill and picking up opportune pucks in the neutral zone.

“The overtime was the fastest paced period of the game,” Babson coach Jamie Rice said. “The kids had that nervous energy. They didn’t want to make a mistake, they wanted to make good plays and that pumped up the adrenaline a little bit and made it more exciting.”

Babson opened the scoring in the first period when junior Shane Farrell was free in front of UMass Boston’s net and in perfect position to pick up a centering pass from Pat McCarthy. Farrell beat Ryan Donovan low stick side, sneaking the puck past his outstretched pad to give Babson a 1-0 lead 12:54 into the first period.

Just 89 seconds later, however, the Beacons’ top line of Kranzky, Atsoff and Eric Tufman combined for the equalizer. Kranzky put the puck on net and a juicy rebound found Atsoff’s stick. The sophomore wasted no time beating Babson goalie Andrew Peabody.

Beacons goalie Ryan Donovan faced a barrage of shots in the second period, as Babson was able to control the puck in the offensive zone for long stretches of time. The Beavers won pucks in the corners and fired at Donovan from all angles, but the junior was up to the task 17 of 18 times in the second period.

Babson retook the lead 8:09 into the second on the power play when Alex DiPietro beat Donovan stick-side from the right faceoff circle on a one-timer. The Beavers controlled much of the second period, outworking UMass Boston in the corners and controlling the neutral zone.

But UMass Boston scored a gritty goal in the last minute of the period to tie the game at two. Freshman forward Bryan Albert skated down the right side, threw the puck on net and Vinnie Jacona had position in front, beating Peabody with 46 seconds left in the period.

It wasn’t until 13:28 of the third period that the stalemate was broken. Babson had a shot on goal from the point, the puck squirted right and Terry Woods was there to pot it over a sprawled out Donovan, giving Babson a 3-2 lead.