Nashua, N.H. –Backed by another unconscious goalkeeping effort from senior James Bushey (Hamden, Conn.), who stopped nine shots for his first career shutout, the second-seeded Eagles whitewashed third-seeded Becker, 6-0 in the semifinal round of the 2017 New England Collegiate Conference championship tournament Wednesday before 75 patrons at misty Eagle Field.
The win – the first postseason victory for the program all-time in six tries, sends the Eagles (8-5) into Saturday's championship at top-seeded and defending tourney champion Regis (6-9). The Pride were 16-8 winners over fourth-seeded Mitchell.
It was again DWC's scoring distribution, Bushey's net play, and a lock-down circle-the-wagons defense in front of the goal that were the keys to victory. Six different Eagles found the back of the net. Tre Mason (Kelowna, B.C.), Gavin Abbott (Binghamton, N.Y.) and Brandon Beard (Apopka, Fla.) all added an assist to finish with two points apiece. Tanner Todd (Henderson, Nev.), Brian Visco (Pepperell, Mass.) and Sean Donahue (Merrimack, N.H.) also found the twine.
Trey McMillen (Grapevine, Tex.) finished with nine saves for Becker (4-12), which was denied a trip to a conference title game for a fourth straight season. Both Bryan Parsons and Corey Bebeau pulled in five grounders.
Despite Becker's 19 shots overall, the Eagle D, keyed down low by Todd and Anthony D'Urso (Rome, N.Y.) succeeded time and time again in not letting Becker penetrate. Of the Hawks nine shots on Bushey, only two were from inside 10 yards.
Becker kept things tight for a while. The Hawks, who use a slow, patient and sometimes pace-deadening outside attack that uses ball control around the perimeter that can eat up minutes at a time before looking for an opportune shot, also used an ultimate 35-30 edge in groundballs (19-14 at the half) to actually finish ahead of the Eagles in clock control, especially in the opening half.
The early result was a scoreless first quarter in which DWC got off only two shots while Becker got off five (two on goal).
But DWC, which was bolstered as usual by strong faceoff production from Matt Capozzi (Wilmington, Mass.) who was 4 for 4 in the second period (7-9 on the day), got off eight shots in that frame and finally broke through when Mason found Beard 10 yards out in front after a Hawks defensive breakdown for the lead.
With 5:36 to go before the half, Mason grabbed the reigns, intercepting an errant pass behind the Becker goal and promptly deked out front and buried the unassisted tally for his team-leading 39th of the year. It was 2-0 Eagles.
DWC then got a key break late when Mason caused a turnover on a failed Hawk clear attempt and set up Abbott from five yards out with 27 seconds before the buzzer for a 3-0 advantage at intermission.
The Eagles ground game began to wear Becker down in the third. DWC racked up a 10-4 shots advantage and finished nearly even in grounders (6-7) with the only goal coming at the 3:10 mark when Donahue connected from 15 yards off an Abbott feed.
The Eagles kept the defensive pressure up in the fourth, despite turning the ball over eight times and made the most of their four shots scoring twice in the final three-plus to ice it.
Todd picked up his 17th of the year on his own with 3:15 left and Visco knocked in his eighth with 70 seconds remaining.
Becker won the all-time series, 9-5.