Belfast Telegraph

Northeastern hold off Colgate to ring Belpot Trophy in stunning Friendship Four final

Northeastern Huskies 4-3 Colgate Raiders

Northeastern Huskies forward Zach Solow tries to find his way through the Colgate Raiders defence in the Friendship Four final at the SSE Arena (William Cherry/PressEye)
Northeastern Huskies forward Zach Solow tries to find his way through the Colgate Raiders defence in the Friendship Four final at the SSE Arena (William Cherry/PressEye)
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

Backed by 24 saves from netminder Craig Pantano, the Northeastern Huskies held on for a 4-3 win over the Colgate Raiders to win the 2019 Friendship Four in an outstanding final.

Three quickfire goals in 55 first period seconds were enough to see the Huskies over the line as they staved off Colgate's comeback to become the fifth holders of the Belpot Trophy.

Captain Ryan Shea fired in the game-winner, a shorthanded empty netter with 55.6 seconds remaining, which Northeastern were able to hold onto despite Bobby McMann making it a one-goal game again with 17.5 seconds on the clock.

Colgate had no shortage of chances, and will rue an 0-for-6 powerplay that never got going, as they ultimately came up just short in what was one of the best games contested at the Friendship Four to date.

But it was the Huskies who emerged victorious and it was fitting that game-winner Shea was both named Player of the Tournament at the conclusion and was the one who rang the bell to signal their victory.

An even start from both sides opened what looked to be an incredibly tight fight, only for Northeastern to suddenly explode offensively to open up their big lead.

First was Jayden Struble's accurate wrister from the left circle, the Huskies ace going high glove side on Andrew Farrier for 1-0 at 7:43, and it then took them just 12 seconds to double their lead, Matt DeMelis stripping his man of the puck at the blue-line and finishing forehand-backhand on Farrier to make it 2-0.

And when Liam Watson-Brawn was pinged for tripping, that allowed the in-form Tyler Madden to add the third at 8:38, picking up his own rebound and firing home.

Colgate head coach Don Vaughan called a timeout to reassemble his troops and it worked when John Snodgrass pulled one back for the Raiders at 11:31, depositing a rebound off a Jeff Stewart shot.

The Raiders could have easily made it a one-goal game towards the end of the first when Struble headed off for boarding but Trevor Cosgrove was denied by the crossbar.

They only had to wait until 1:00 into the second to pull it back to 3-2, however, as Ben Sharf got in behind and wripped a wrister past Pantano in the Northeastern goal for his third of the weekend.

At the other end, Farrier shook off his rough start and ensured his forwards' excellent work was rewarded when he denied Madden a second on a two-on-one with Matt Filipe.

Both sides had to kill off penalties before the intermission, Colgate shipping a too many men call and Northeastern's Jordan Harris heading off for holding, while the Huskies nearly had their two-goal lead back when Mike Kesselring pinged the inside of the post.

With tension in the air, the third period was a tight affair, and Colgate kept themselves alive with a massive penalty kill that lasted 5:31 and included two sessions of 5-on-3, which set up a dramatic finish.

Struble headed off for his second penalty of the night, called for holding, but the Raiders failed to make it count, and when Northeastern turned the puck over, Shea slid in the game-winner from the blue-line.

But the drama wasn't over and Colgate responded superbly with just 17.5 seconds left on the clock when captain McMann spun and roofed the puck from the angle shortside on Pantano to make it a one-goal game again.

That goal would come too late, however, and Northeastern were able to see out the final few seconds, sparking the celebrations on the bench as they ensured they would be the ones to raise the trophy.

In the afternoon's Consolation Game, it was the University of New Hampshire Wildcats who came away with the victory as they staged a third period comeback to win 3-2 over the Princeton Tigers.

Swedish forward Filip Engaras scored the winner at 9:28 of the final period to ensure the Wildcats didn't come away empty handed from the weekend.

Liam Blackburn had earlier scored a double for New Hampshire, opening the scoring at 15:09 of the first period and then tying it up at 8:21 of the final frame.

In between that, goals from Christian O'Neill and captain Derek Topatigh had pulled the Tigers ahead in the second period, however they couldn't hold out and go home without a win.

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