Denison made a run, but the Bishops, led by sophomore goalie Ryan McMahon held their ground and came away with a 10-9 victory over the Big Red from Piper Stadium. With the win, Ohio Wesleyan secured the first-ever North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament Championship and with it, the automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
This was another classic chapter in the history of the rivalry between the Big Red and Battling Bishops. Trailing by one goal with 20 seconds remaining in regulation, OWU's Steve Barnett was called for a slashing penalty, putting the Big Red in man-up as the final seconds ticked off the clock. With six seconds left, Eddie Vita went to cage and sent a point-blank shot on McMahon who denied the potential game tying goal. The ball sailed toward midfield where Denison recovered but they were unable to get a second shot on cage before time expired.
Denison nearly doubled up Ohio Wesleyan in the shot department as they held a 45-26 advantage. The difference in the game was the play of McMahon in cage and the accuracy of the Battling Bishop attack. The sophomore posted 17 saves, just three shy of his career high set earlier this season in a 5-4 loss to Salisbury.
DU trailed 7-5 at halftime, but they inched closer in the third quarter with a pair of man-up goals from Vita and Will Koontz. Penalties plagued OWU for most of the night and Denison was solid in EMO, converting 4-of-9 opportunities. One weapon was sophomore Nick Caravana, who in limited minutes with the man-up unit, led DU in goals with two. His score with 7:58 to play in the fourth quarter off a pass from Blair Farinholt would be the last goal of the contest.
Just over a week and a half ago in Delaware, Denison dominated face-off's and that helped the Big Red earn an 11-8 win over the Bishops. Tonight, Chip Phillips repeated that outstanding performance going 18-of-22 at the X, while wings Austin Campbell and Ben Hearn were zeroing in on ground balls. Denison's game plan worked, but the Bishops netminder had the final say in the outcome.
DU's nine goals came from eight different players. Phillips and Campbell posted nine ground balls and Campbell paced all players with four caused turnovers. Senior defenseman Spencer Riehl added four ground balls.
The loss snaps an eight-game winning streak against OWU. It also marks the first loss by the Big Red in Granville against the Battling Bishops since 2004.
Denison (13-3) will await word from the NCAA selection committee to see if they will gain one of five Pool C bids to the NCAA Division III Tournament. That selection will take place on Sunday (May 5). The Big Red has advanced to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last eight seasons. Last year's berth marked the 20th in school history.
NOTE: Following the conclusion of the NCAC Championship game Austin Campbell, Blair Farinholt, Chip Phillips, Spencer Riehl and Eddie Vita were named to the 2013 NCAC All-Tournament team.