BEVERLY, Mass. — A wild and crazy NCAA Division III men’s hockey semifinal ended in heartbreaking fashion for the University of New England.

Alessio Luciani scored on a power play 6:34 into overtime Friday afternoon, and No. 3 Adrian defeated the 10th-ranked Nor’easters, 8-7, at Endicott College’s Raymond Bourque Arena.

The Nor’easters and Bulldogs took turns exchanging gut punches, with spot in Sunday’s championship game at stake. UNE (21-7-2), looking for its first trip to the national final, led by three goals late in the second period, then trailed late in the third before taking the lead again. But the Nor’easters gave up the tying goal to Adrian (25-4-2) with just over a minute left in regulation.

And then, finally, came the crushing finish.

“I thought last weekend’s game at Utica was a wild game,” said UNE Coach Kevin Swallow, referencing the Nor’easters’ 5-4 overtime victory in the quarterfinals. “This one was twice as wild. Just the momentum swings and the lead changes that happened.

“And no comment on overtime.”


Minutes into overtime, after a whistle following a gathering around the puck along the boards, Adrian Coach Adam Krug asked if he could have the play reviewed for a spearing penalty. The officials looked at the play and ended up calling Chad Merrell for spearing, resulting in a game misconduct and a five-minute power play for the Bulldogs’ top-ranked unit.

“The UNE player took a couple of good jabs in a spearing motion, which is a penalty,” Krug said. “Given the motion of what the player was doing with the stick, it fit the definition of a spear. We were pretty confident.”

The Bulldogs struck 50 seconds later, as Luciani gathered a loose puck, swooped down to the right side of the crease and then across to the far post before sliding the puck in for the winning goal.

Swallow again said he had no comment when asked if he received an explanation on the call from the officiating crew.

“When they got the call there, I knew we were in trouble,” he said. “Their power play’s at 45%, the No. 1 power play in the country. … Honestly, on the bench, (I’m thinking) ‘What are you going to do there?'”

It was a sudden ending for the Nor’easters after they had first seemed on the verge of making it to the national final when they built a three-goal lead, and then after they fought back in the third period to keep their hopes alive.


“This whole game was just a roller coaster of emotions,” said junior right wing Dawson Ellis, a former Adrian player whose goal gave UNE its first lead at 3-2. “We didn’t get the outcome that we wanted, but we left it all out there.”

Swallow credited his team for taking the defending national champions to the limit.

“Unbelievable resiliency. Both teams. Them as well,” he said. “We battled back hard. … For them to take the lead late in the third there, and for us to find a way to score two goals and retake the lead, that’s unbelievable resiliency. I’m so proud of how the group responded there.”

That response started early. Adrian led 2-0, but UNE ramped up the pace and scored the next five goals, with Garrett Devine scoring on a power play in the first period and Alex Sheehy, Ellis, Merrell and Colin Heinold adding second-period goals as the Nor’easters began bombarding the Bulldogs with wave after wave of pressure.

“I think (the deficit) was probably the best thing to happen,” Swallow said. “We talked about them maybe underestimating us, and then when they went up 2-0, I think that furthered in their heads that they were looking ahead to Sunday.”

Ellis said the rally was a credit to the team’s mental toughness.


“I think it’s just the character in this group,” Ellis said. “We felt we needed to have a push. We felt we had a good push. And then they responded.”

The Bulldogs roared to life, scoring the next four goals for a 6-5 lead. The dramatics, however, were just beginning. Daniel Winslow and Jared Christy scored back-to-back goals with 5:00 and 4:09 remaining in regulation for a 7-6 Nor’easters lead, but Ryan Pitoscia’s goal with 1:09 left forced overtime.

“I’ve never seen anything like that game,” said Krug, whose team plays in the final at 7 p.m. Sunday against Hobart, which beat Endicott 3-1 in Friday’s second semifinal. “I’ve never experienced ebbs and flows like that.”

Nobody had.

“It was just a wild, wild hockey game, one of the wildest games I’ve ever seen,” Swallow said. “It had to be entertaining for the fans. It was fun for us. It was a fun game, until the end.”

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