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URI men's ice hockey team takes home second straight ESCHL championship

By Jonathan Shideler
On February 22, 2012

For the second year in a row the University of Rhode Island men's ice hockey team is taking home a championship cup.

The Rams entered the Eastern States Collegiate Hockey League tournament as the No. 4-seed. The weekend started off Friday with a  7-1 victory against Robert Morris University.

The next day was another great win against the top-seeded University of Delaware. The Rams went down a goal early on. However, sophomore center and tournament MVP Sean O'Neil tied the game up at one going into the second.

Later in the period O'Neil scored again, in a short-handed manner with help from sophomore left wing Justin Bishop. Freshmen left wing Vince Pettrone followed up with another goal for the Rams that period and gave his team a 3-1 advantage. The team then added four more goals to put the final score at 7-2 and advance to the finals.

"They came out and played 60 hard minutes [versus Delaware], as coaches we've been waiting for that all year," head coach Joe Augustine said.

The Rams met Stony Brook University in the finals , a team that came to Kingston and won both games against the Rams a little more than a week ago.

The team came out of the gate ready to play, as freshman Eric Menard gave the Rams a one-goal lead in the first.

In the second the Rams were shutout and gave up three goals to put themselves at a 3-1 disadvantage.

Being down late in the game and overcoming adversity is something this team has done all season and the final game on Sunday was no different.

Two minutes into the third period, Bishop cut the Stony Brook lead in half. 

With five minutes left to play, the Rams' hope of repeating as champions was quickly slipping away, until Bishop found the back of the net again to force overtime.

"You could tell by the environment in the locker room during the week everyone wanted to win, and everyone was willing to do whatever it took," senior defenseman Dan Lassik said.

O'Neil scored the game winner in overtime  to give the Rams their league championship for the second consecutive year.

The Rams' play in the tournament showed how well this group can be together when needed, but also was a bit frustrating for coaches and players as their hopes for making the national tournament were already shot down the weekend before.

"The team really came together, we decided that we had this one weekend to re-write our season, and this was our chance to put a final mark on it.  It was a real group effort, every guy in that locker room deserved it," Lassik said.

The Rams will wrap up their season at home with a two- game series against William Patterson University. The first game is Friday night at 7 p.m.. And the final game of the season, which is Senior Night, will be on Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m.

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