Castleton, Vt. – Despite a slow start, the top-seeded Castleton Spartans knocked off the four seed, Maine Maritime Academy 13-7 in the semifinal round of the North Atlantic Conference postseason tournament on Wednesday at Spartan Stadium.
Peter Latulippe made a career-high 21 saves in net and Zach Davidson notched four goals and four assists to lead the Spartans to the win. With the victory, the Spartans set a new program record with 14 wins. It was also their ninth straight victory, moving their record to 14-3 on the year. Maine Maritime dropped to 6-9 with the loss.
In the first quarter, the Spartans struggled to crack the zone defense of the Mariners, settling for just a 3-2 lead after the first frame. Spencer Hunt grabbed two goals for the Spartans in the frame while Alex Green netted one. Zach Davidson earned assists on all three first-quarter goals. Trailing 3-0, Maine Maritime responded with a pair of goals from All-Conference First-Teamer Alex Hermes to cut the lead to 3-2 before the quarter ended.
In the second, Castleton extended their lead with a third goal from Spencer Hunt just 44 seconds into the period. Zach Davidson netted his first goal of the contest with 13:21 remaining in the half to put the Spartans up 5-2. Hermes notched his third goal of the game to cut the lead to two goals, but Castleton answered with two goals in the final 3:10 of the half to go into the break leading 7-3.
After the break, Castleton jumped on the Mariners, gaining a seven-goal advantage, their largest lead of the day. Sam Bailey started the scoring with a goal 3:31 into the frame, followed by goals by Davidson and Alex Denny just seven seconds apart to put the Spartans up 10-3 with 9:38 remaining in the period.
Maine Maritime went on a 3-0 run to finish the period, cutting the lead to 10-6. Bronson Guimond notched a goal at the 9:30 mark, and Nicholas Betti scored twice in the final three minutes to give the Mariners a glimmer of hope entering the fourth.
The Spartans slammed the door on the Mariners in the fourth, outscoring the visitors 3-1 in the final frame to preserve their lead. Bailey, Green, and Davidson each notched tallies in the final frame, while Hermes scored his fourth goal of the game. Latulippe made 13 second half saves to keep the Spartans on top and close out the Mariners 13-7.
Ben Roberts led the Spartans with eight ground balls on the day while Alex Denny scooped seven. NAC Defensive Player of the Year David Barrett notched six ground balls and caused a team-high three turnovers to lead the Spartan defense.
Castleton now advances to its 10th straight NAC Championship game, seeking its third conference title in four years. The Spartans face New England College, who beat them in the title game a season ago, on Saturday, May 4 in Spartan Stadium at 7 p.m.