By Joe Gutowski
Special to D3hockey.com
GENESEO, N.Y. -- March Madness doesn't just exist in college basketball. Colby College is living proof of that right now.
The Colby Mules, seeded sixth in their own conference tournament and needing to beat three higher-seeded teams just to qualify for the Division III Men's Hockey tournament, got a goal from freshman forward Justin Grillo with just 1.6 seconds to go in regulation and shocked the SUNY Geneseo Ice Knights 2-1 to advance to next weekend's Frozen Four in Lake Placid where they will play the St. Norbert Green Knights.
"We came out of the zone pretty connected,"Grillo said of his game-winning goal. "Stahly (Stahlhuth) came across the middle tried to get a shot through, I was insanely lucky to be in the right place at the right time and just tried to put anything I could on it."
Even with the heroic goal, Grillo claimed that he never actually saw the puck go in the net. "There were a lot of bodies in front of me. I saw the goalie look back and I saw everyone else react. But I didn't actually see it go in."
Although the first period was scoreless, it was certainly not without action. The game started at a quick pace and never seemed to let up. Goalies Devin McDonald (for Geneseo) and Sean Lawrence (for Colby) each made 11 saves for their respective teams, including several of which that happened right on Lawrence's doorstep. Each team spent time on the power play, with the Knights killing off two penalties and the Mules killing off one. While Geneseo seemed to dominate a majority of the period, Colby applied pressure in the Ice Knights' zone late in the first period with a few excellent chances down deep. Even without a point on the board, it was very apparent that both teams came ready to play from the opening faceoff.
The Mules carried that late momentum over into the second period, with Stahlhuth scoring on a 2 on 1 breakaway thanks to an excellent pass from Grillo, with a backhander past McDonald :40 into the second period to give the Mules a 1-0 lead. Senior forward Michael Rudolf was credited with the second assist on Stahlhuth's goal.
Stahlhuth described his goal as important for his team playing against a Geneseo Ice Knight team that was undefeated at home. "That first goal on the road really gets your team going. That's exactly what it did. It's tough going to an away game, going 0-0 in the first period, but it was a really good start to the second period."
That initial goal only served to ratchet up the intensity on both sides of the ice as each team continued to pressure the nets. Both the Knights and the Mules continued to push the puck deeper and deeper into their respective opponents' zone, drawing many collective oohs and aahs from the gathered fanbases from both teams. Both Lawrence and McDonald continued to play masterfully in net, stopping and deflecting whatever came their way.
|Colby goaltender Sean Lawrence maintained his postseason hot hand on Friday as he finished with 38 saves -- including a crucial kick save with about five minutes remaining.
Photo: Eric Gulseth
Coincidental roughing penalties sent Colby's Klenan Scott and Geneseo's Will Campion to the sin bin late in the second period, creating an extended 4 on 4 situation. The open ice led to some outstanding chances for both teams but neither was able to convert before the penalties and the period expired. Each team ended the second period with 10 shots on goal and 21 for the game.
The Ice Knights came out firing on all cylinders at Lawrence to start the third period. Geneseo pounded Lawrence with multiple shots in the first minute. The senior goaltender rose to the challenge, as he turned away every attempt in the early onslaught.
A mid ice collision between Colby's Joe Schuler and Geneseo's Pat Condon at 7:40 of the 3rd period resulted in a 2 minute penalty to Schuler for kneeing at 7:40, Condon being helped off the ice, and the energy in the building being escalated even further. That penalty was followed 23 seconds later by a tripping call on Colby's Rudolf, creating a 5 on 3 opportunity for the Ice Knights, their best and biggest opportunity of the game to that point.
That opportunity allowed Geneseo to finally crack Lawrence, with junior forward Arthur Gordon scoring on a slapshot from the right faceoff circle at 8:18 of the third period Sophomore forward Andrew Romano and sophomore defenseman Tanner Salsberry were credited with the assists on the game-tying goal. Geneseo continued to pressure Lawrence and the Mule defense but couldn't convert on the remainder of the power play.
Tying the game seemed to light a fire under the Ice Knights as they peppered Colby with shot after shot throughout the third period. Lawrence, from Granite Bay, California, withstood every attempt, making save after save, including a seemingly impossible stop from his stomach with just under 5 minutes to play in regulation.
On that save, Lawrence said that he, "tried to poke check (the player) coming through the crease and he made a nice move and went around it so it was kinda pure desperation at that point; I just tried to seal the ice as best as I could."
Sean Lawrence finished the game with 38 saves and Colby coach Blaise MacDonald couldn't say enough about his goaltender, both about tonight's performance and throughout the season. "He's been really locked in for us and gives our offense an opportunity to really get after it. He gives us a lot of confidence that transcends through our team. He's a real competitor and emotionally can take our team to a different level. This is a different place where Colby hockey has never been before and a lot of it is due to him."
Geneseo outshot Colby 18-4 in the third period and seemed to be either on their way to overtime or on the verge of solving Lawrence again. Instead, Griffo sent the Mules on to their first Frozen Four appearance in the history of the school.