CLINTON, N.Y. (WKTV) - Tom Salah '12 scored two goals and Matt Hadge '13 made 33 saves to lead Wesleyan University to a 5-2 win against Hamilton College in a 2011 New England Small College Athletic Conference men's ice hockey championship quarterfinal at Hamilton's Russell Sage Rink Saturday.
No. 8 seed Wesleyan (10-11-3 overall) won its first NESCAC championship game in five tries. The Cardinals' victory marked the first time a No. 8 seed upset a No. 1 seed since the championship expanded to eight teams in 2003. Chris MacDonald '13 and Adam Kaiser '13 were credited with two assists apiece.
Hamilton (14-7-4) was the top seed in the championship for the first time in the 12-year history of the event. The Continentals were hosting a NESCAC postseason game for the first time since 2002. Hamilton had a record of 3-4-3 at home this season. Joe Houk '13 had one goal and one assist, and Nick Anderson '14 picked up two assists. Scott Hefferman '11 made 34 saves in his last start in goal for the Continentals.
The game started off well for Hamilton as Wesleyan was whistled for a penalty just 13 seconds into the first period. The Continentals scored their lone power-play goal in seven chances at 1:23 when Joe Buicko '11 scored his sixth goal this season. Hadge dove to stop a shot and the rebound was passed out to Buicko, who fired a wrist shot into an open net from the left circle.
Tommy Hartnett '14 tied the score for the Cardinals with his fourth goal with 7:46 left in the first. Hefferman stopped a shot by Todd Keats '11, and the rebound came out to Hartnett, who slapped the puck in from the slot.
Wesleyan controlled the action for much of the second period. Nik Tasiopoulos '14 scored unassisted for his 12th goal after a Hamilton turnover in its own defensive zone just 52 seconds into the period. Buicko had a shot glance off the crossbar that would have tied the score midway through the second. The Cardinals made the score 3-1 with 7:59 remaining in the period when Salah notched his first goal of the afternoon. Salah took a pass from behind the goal and rifled a one-timer from the slot past Hefferman.
In the third period, the Continentals had a 5-on-3 power play for 74 seconds, but didn't score. Houk pulled Hamilton within a goal with 8:42 left during a 4-on-4. Houk's wrist shot from the left circle near the boards found the back of the net for his team-high 17th goal.
Geoff Mucha '12 restored Wesleyan's two-goal cushion with 4:17 remaining when he scored his 12th goal on a wrist shot from the bottom of the right circle. Salah clinched the victory for the Cardinals with an empty-net goal with 2:37 left. The goal was his fifth this season. Hadge stopped 21 shots in the third period.
Wesleyan was 0-for-5 on the power play, but held a 39-35 shot advantage. The Cardinals defeated the Continentals 3-2 at home back on Nov. 20, 2010. Hamilton still leads the all-time series, 24-5-3.
Wesleyan will play at No. 2 seed Williams College in one semifinal on Saturday, March 5. Williams edged Trinity College 4-3 in a quarterfinal played at Williams on Saturday.