MANCHESTER — It took a shootout to decide it, but Trinity finally emerged with a 5-4 win over Bedford to claim its second consecutive Bauer Christmas Hockey Classic championship Sunday night at JFK Coliseum.
The game featured four ties and a hat trick from Pioneers sophomore Drew Merrick, who was named tournament MVP. Trinity finished the tournament 3-1, as did Bedford. Hanover defeated Manchester Central 4-2 in the consolation game to claim third place.
In the shootout, Merrick scored on Bedford senior goalie Steve Tempesta with a deke and forehand to slide the puck home. Cam Brown won it for the Pioneers with a wrist shot to beat Tempesta clean to the glove-side.
On the other end, Trinity freshman goalie Curtis Wirbal stopped Chris Viola with a glove save and Asa Palker with a left pad stuff at the right post. Those two saves set the stage for Brown to win it with Trinity's second shot.
The Pioneers thought they had won the game in the four-on-four overtime session, but a would-be Trinity goal with 2:14 remaining was waved off when the officials ruled that the whistle had blown before the puck went in, so the game continued.
Trailing 3-2 to open the third period, Bedford came out on fire and scored twice in the first 61 seconds to take a 4-3 lead.
Nate Boyd got the equalizer, firing the puck on net from a tough angle on the left side and squeaking one past Wirbal 44 seconds into the period. Viola made it 4-3 Bulldogs at 1:01, banging home a loose puck on a scramble in front of Wirbal.
Trinity tied the game at 4-4 at the 5:05 mark. Brown's shot from the left wing was gloved by Tempesta, but he couldn't hang onto it and the puck dropped right to Merrick streaking across the slot for a one-timer through the five-hole to complete the hat trick and force the eventual overtime.
After a scoreless first period, the offenses warmed up to the tune of five goals in the second stanza. Bedford got it started 4:12 into the period when Ben Desrosiers scored from the left side from close range.
Trinity scored the next two to take a 2-1 lead, getting goals from Mitch Dructor at 7:18 and Merrick at 9:23. Dructor stepped around a Bulldog defender in the right circle snapped a wrist shot short side to beat Tempesta. Merrick scored his when Tempesta was down and out after defending a rush from Pioneer Mitch Myers, who did not get off a shot but passed to Merrick for the score.
Bedford tied the game at 2-2 at 10:42. The Bulldogs were buzzing in the Trinity end, getting chances but coming up short until Palker's shot from a bad angle hit a skate in front and bounced in past Wirbal.
Trinity got in the last word in the second period, taking a 3-2 lead at 13:35 when Merrick stole a cross-ice pass from Brett Silva in the slot and then roofed a shot past Tempesta.
Bedford's Mike Dee put the puck in at the close of the period, but it came after the buzzer had sounded and did not count, leaving the score 3-2 heading into the third.Hanover 4, Central 2: Ben Acker scored a power-play goal 1:37 into the third period to give Hanover a 3-2 lead. Matthew Goff's shot from the left side went wide of the net and drew goalie Brendan O'Neil to the ice as he tried to make the save. The puck hit the glass and came right to Acker on the right for the put-back into the open cage.
The Little Green skated a power play in the final two minutes of the game and had two solid chances, but they were turned aside by the blocker of Hanover freshman goalie Luke Ratfliff.
Central pulled O'Neil to make it a six-on-four advantage, but Andrew Huizenga scored a shorthanded empty net goal with nine seconds remaining to put the game away for the Marauders. The Marauders finished the tournament 3-1 while Central was 2-2.
Hanover led 1-0 on a goal from Gus Lyons 2:08 into the game. Central tied the game at 1-1 at the 10:15 mark of the first period when Patrick Barry knocked a loose puck home during a goal-mouth scramble.
The Little Green claimed their first lead of the game just 16 seconds into the second period on a power-play goal from Jon Mathieu. Hanover would knot the game once again at 14:16 when captain Shawn Cavallaro backhanded a shot over O'Neil's shoulder glove-side to make it 2-2.