The proverbial slate has been wiped clean, and a new season is upon the ECAC NE, which begins Saturday afternoon when the top two seeds, Curry College and UMass-Dartmouth, host their opponents.
All four match-ups will be discussed below, many of which werent determined until the regular season ended on Wednesday night.
Curry will host the eighth seed, Fitchburg State, at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Mar. 1. Fitchburg State, Salve Regina University and Becker College were all tied with 19 points at the end of the regular season. Newcomer Becker College claimed the sixth seed (based on ECAC tiebreaking criteria number two, number of league wins). Salve Regina finished with the number seven seed (based on ECAC tiebreaking criteria number one, head-to-head play), as they beat the Falcons during the regular season.
#1 Curry vs. #8 Fitchburg State (Mar. 1, 4:30 pm)
On paper, this looks like a mismatch, but Salve Regina hasnt lost a game in over a month, and along the way they beat UMass-Dartmouth and Fitchburg State, and tied Wentworth. The Colonels earned the first seed by posting a 14-1-1 league record, and come roaring into the playoffs having won eight straight, outscoring their opponents 48-20 in that span.
They boast the most potent offense in the conference, led by the one-two punch of freshman Jason Yuel and junior Jeffrey Hazelwood. In goal, the Colonels have another brilliant combo in sophomores Zach Cardella and Steven Jakiel.
For Fitchburg State, they made the playoffs on the strength of their 8-5-3 record, but they come into the playoffs with just three wins in their last eight games. Freshman Chris Riggs leads the team in scoring with nine goals and 23 assists for 32 points in 25 games. Senior Devan McConnell has been a workhorse in goal for the Falcons, seeing action in 23 games while recording a .917 save percentage, 2.65 goals against average, and a 12-7-4 record. In the only game between these two teams this season, they skated to a 3-3 draw back in November.
#2 UMass-Dartmouth vs. #7 Salve Regina (Mar. 1, 4:30 pm)
UMass-Dartmouth comes in riding a five game winning streak, and a record of 13-3-0 in the league. Three more wins means they would earn their third straight ECAC NE banner. Up front, Jeff Grant leads the way for the Corsairs, and more than half of his 17 goals came on the power play, so Salve Regina will have to be wary of taking too many penalties.
Freshman Joseph Hill had a big first year, scoring 10 goals with 21 assists for 31 points in 24 games. UMass-Dartmouth goalie Jeff Green has been outstanding all year long, going 14-8-1 overall, and leading the conference with a 2.30 goals against average.
Salve Regina rode the tails of a seven game unbeaten streak to round out the regular season with an 8-5-3 league mark. Freshman goalie Pat Enloe’s .919 save percentage ties him for best in the league. Senior Mike Mallette registered an even 12 goals and 12 assists for 24 points to lead the Seahawks. Salve Regina also will look for offense from forwards Tyler Trott and Conor McCahill. Both scored 10 times this season.
In head-to-head play between UMass-Dartmouth and Salve Regina this year, the teams split a pair of games, with the Corsairs winning, 3-1, in a non-conference game at Portsmouth Abbey Jan. 16, and Salve Regina taking a 4-3 victory at Hetland Feb. 6. The Corsairs have not lost since that date.
#3 Nichols vs. #6 Becker (Mar. 1, 8:30 pm)
Nichols earned the number three seed on the strength of a 12-4-0 league record, and tied a school record for wins, with 18. They come into post-season play sporting a 10-4 record this semester, and their last three losses were all by one goal, with two of those games decided in overtime.
Theyre led by junior forward Anthony Monte, who was tied for first in overall scoring in the conference with 19 goals and 29 assists for 48 points in 25 games. (Matt McGilvray of Johnson & Wales also finished with 48 points, scoring 28 goals and getting 20 assists in 25 games.) Nichols skates 10 freshmen every game, but that fact doesnt faze coach Lou Izzi one bit, especially when two of them, John Haley and Will Munson, averaged more than a point per game.
For Becker, they went 9-6-1 in league play, and making the playoffs is quite an achievement, for two reasons: this was their first year in the league, and the team is consisted primarily of freshmen and sophomores. Sophomore Jared Kersner led the team in scoring with 15 goals and 10 assists for 25 points in 24 games. Freshmen Anthony Libonati averaged a point per game, with a dozen goals and a dozen assists. These teams played twice this year, with Nichols taking both games in closely played contests.
#4 Wentworth vs. #5 Suffolk (Mar. 2, 6:00 pm)
In this battle of the Beantown boys, two teams with similar records face off. Wentworth earned the fourth seed with a 10-5-1 league record, and Suffolk wasnt far behind with a 10-6 mark. Wentworth is led up front by senior forward Matt Koehler, who tallied 14 goals and added eight assists.
Also dangerous up front for the Leopards are sophomore Dave Lewandowski, (10 goals, 11assists, 21 points,) and freshman Geric Brodt (eight goals 12 assists, 20 points.) Sophomore Justin Marriott recorded a .909 save percentage, 3.37 goals against average while going 9- 9- 1 in net.
For Suffolk, theyre led by junior Kyle Cook who scored 16 goals and added 18 assists for 34 points on the season; and senior Dan Pencinger, who had 21 goals and 12 assists for 33 points. Together, they accounted for nearly half (11) of the Rams 23 power play goals. In goal, rookie Jeff Rose was a stalwart, seeing action in all 25 games, posting a .910 save percentage and a 3.18 goals against average.
Both of these teams suffered through long losing streaks this year, and in both cases, neither team could muster more than a three game winning streak. This is perhaps the most evenly matched up series of all four. In the only meeting this year between the two teams, Suffolk won, 5-3, in November.
After the quarterfinals are sorted out, the semifinals will take place on Wed. Mar. 5 at the two highest remaining seeds. The championship will be decided on Saturday, March 8 at the rink of the highest remaining seed, with the victor receiving the leagues automatic berth into the NCAA Division III championships.