Division Champions Face Off in Finals of NECHA Tournament

The University of Connecticut used a late six-goal outburst to overpower MIT and claim a 6-1 victory in the NorthEast Collegiate Hockey Association Conference A Championship on Sunday afternoon at the Conway Arena in Nashua, N.H. The Engineers’ bid to attain the conference crown was thwarted for a second straight season, as MIT fell to Bryant University in the title game last year.

The Engineers, the NECHA Conference A East Division regular season champions, finished with an impressive overall record of 14-5-1. The Huskies, who won the NECHA Conference A West Division regular season title, went 16-7-1 over the course of the season.

The beginning of the championship game was close, as neither team managed to find the back of the net in the first period.

UConn then broke the deadlock early in the second period and never looked back, scoring six straight goals over the ensuing 30 minutes. Jake Hawvermale opened the floodgates at the 15:55 mark, finishing with help from Chris Earle and Dan Roche. Hawvermale then scored his second on the power-play just over five minutes later, again receiving an assist from Earle, this time along with John Stockler. It became 3-0 to the Huskies with 2:27 remaining in the second period, as Hawvermale along with Charlie Luther assisted Stockler for the their third goal.

Any thoughts of a third period comeback for MIT were dashed just 37 seconds after the break, as Ryan McLaughlin took a feed from T.J. Seifert and scored to make it 4-0 in favor of UConn.

Stockler added a fifth, unassisted goal at the 10:14 mark, before Kevin Donovan rounded out the Huskies’ scoring with 5:55 on the clock. Assists on Donovan’s goal were credited to Brendan Stanley and Matt Nardone.

The Engineers did receive a consolation strike late in the third period from Ryan W. Ballentine ’09, who scored with help from Nick R. LaBounty ’09 and Nicholas J. Maietta G.

Ballentine (14 goals, 27 assists) and LaBounty (23 goals, 18 assists) tied for the team lead in points with 41, which was a career-high for both.

Goaltender Stephen L. Yablonski ’11 played the entire game in net for MIT, taking the first playoff loss of his young intercollegiate career after earning the wins in both the quarterfinals and semifinals. He finishes his rookie season with an impressive goals-against average of 2.33.