For the first time since the 2002-03 season, Wentworth is the ECAC Northeast regular season champion.
The Leopards entered Sunday’s season finale against Curry one point behind the Colonels for top spot in the conference and used a third period rally to emerge with a 4-2 win and the regular season title, beating out Curry by a point.
“It wasn’t easy,” Wentworth head coach R.J. Tolan said. “It’s the first time we’ve won it in seven years and it’s certainly a good accomplishment.”
The Colonels’ could have made Sunday’s game a moot point with a win Thursday against Johnson & Wales but a 5-3 loss to the Wildcats ensured that Michael O’Brien’s game-winning goal at 2:13 in the third period Sunday stood as the strike that pushed Wentworth in the regular season crown.
Despite needing Johnson & Wales to win Thursday, Tolan said the result of that game wasn’t something that factored into his planning for Sunday’s game.
“With college hockey, you want your players to be playing well as a group,” Tolan said, adding that he wouldn’t have rested any of his players if Sunday’s game turned out to be meaningless.
Even though it’s been seven seasons since Wentworth last won the ECAC Northeast regular season crown, the Leopards are no stranger to postseason success. They’ve been to the conference championship game seven times in the last 10 seasons, including last year, when they lost to Nichols.
“We’re going to rely on the five seniors who have been in the championship game two of the last three seasons,” Tolan said. “The experience is certainly going to help in the playoffs. With single elimination though, you never know.”
ECAC Northeast Playoff Overview
With the top spot decided on the last day, here’s a look at how the rest of the conference standings played out, along with the matchups for this coming weekend of postseason action.
No. 8 Salve Regina (1-23-1 overall, 0-13-1 in the ECAC Northeast) at No. 1 Wentworth (19-4-1, 11-3-0)
Season Series: Wentworth, 2-0.
Quick hit: Arguably one of the most lopsided matchups of the playoffs, as Wentworth scored 10 goals in each of its games against the Seahawks this year. Senior Jeff Olitch (20 goals, 18 assists, 36 points) paced the Leopards league-best offense in the regular season while Patrick Bembery’s 13 goals accounted for almost a quarter of Salve Regina’s total scoring on the year.
No. 7 Western New England (3-20-1, 2-12-0) at No. 2 Curry (16-8-1, 10-3-1)
Season Series: Curry, 2-0.
Quick hit: The Colonels can’t let Sunday’s loss linger too long as they barely beat the Golden Bears last time out. Curry rallied on the strength of two third period goals to beat Western New England, 3-2. Senior Steven Jakiel (2,.41 goals against average) has seen the majority of the time in net for a Colonel unit that allowed a conference-best 2.21 goals in league play.
No. 6 Johnson & Wales (10-14-1, 7-6-1) at No. 3 Suffolk (12-10-3, 8-4-2)
Season Series: Johnson & Wales, 2-0
Quick hit: The Rams are on a five game winning streak heading into the playoffs, including victories over Wentworth and Curry in that stretch. Suffolk goaltender Jeff Rose will have his hands full with the league’s leading scorer in Craig Houle, who posted a 12-17-29 line in 14 conference games.
No. 5 Nichols (13-9-3, 7-6-1) at No. 4 Becker (12-11-1, 8-6-0)
Season Series: 1-1
Quick hit: Nichols, the defending conference champions, stumbled a bit down the stretch winning just one of their last five games. Conversely, Becker prevailed in four of its final five to close the season.
While the playoffs begin in the ECAC Northeast, there’s still a week left in the regular season in the MASCAC. A tight race all season boils down to these final few games, which will see the top six teams in the seven team conference advance to postseason play. The top two teams in the conference receive an opening round bye as well. Here’s a rundown of where each team stands entering the waning portion of the season.
(Records and points pertain to conference play only.)
1. Fitchburg State (13-3-0; 21 points)
Remaining games: Thursday at Plymouth State; Saturday at UMass-Dartmouth.
Skinny: The Falcons have lost exactly one conference game in 2010. All they’ll need to do is win one more this weekend to clinch the top spot.
2. Salem State (10-3-4; 24 points)
Remaining games: Saturday versus Worcester State.
Skinny: Fitchburg State has a game in hand, but should the Falcons lose both their remaining games and the Vikings beat Worcester, they would win the tiebreaker based on head-to-head records.
3. Plymouth State (11-4-1; 23)
Remaining games: Thursday versus Fitchburg; Saturday at Westfield State.
Skinny: Saturday’s game at Westfield State could have implications in the standings, as the Panthers are just one point ahead of the Owls and the teams have a 1-1 head-to-head record this year. Should the Panthers catch the Vikings, they’d win based on the tiebreaker.
4. Westfield State (9-4-3; 21 points)
Remaining games: Thursday versus Worcester State; Saturday versus Plymouth State.
Skinny: : In order to leapfrog Plymouth State, the Owls must first take care of business Thursday against the Warriors and hope for a Panthers’ loss, which would put both teams with 23 points and 1-1 draw in the tiebreaker entering their final match.
5. Worcester State (3-11-2; 8)
Remaining games:Thursday at Westfield State; Saturday at Salem State.
Skinny: : The Lancers have a pair of tough road games to close out their season but holds the tiebreaker over the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, who currently sits in sixth place.
6. UMass-Dartmouth (3-12-1; 7)
Remaining games: Thursday versus Framingham State; Saturday vs. Fitchburg State.
Skinny: The Corsairs have locked up a playoff spot. Even if they lose to Framingham State Thursday, they’ll still win the tiebreaker and have a game in hand.
Framingham State (2-14-1; 5)
Remaining games: : Thursday at UMass-Dartmouth
Skinny: : Time to pack it for next season. Even if the Rams beat the Corsairs Thursday, they’ll still lose based on the tiebreaker.
Player of the Week — Zeke Costello, Nichols: The senior forward posted a goal and six assists, including three helpers in a 5-2 win over Western New England Thursday.
Goalie of the Week — Jeff Rose, Suffolk: Rose posted two more wins for the Rams this week, stopping 26 and 31 shots against Becker and Western New England, respectively.
Rookie of the Week — Anthony Principato, Wentworth: Principato had a hat trick and one assist in Wentworth’s 10-4 win over Salve Regina and assisted on a goal in a 4-2 win over Curry.
Player of the Week: — Alex Cottle, Plymouth: The freshman had a hat trick and two assists in an 8-5 win over Framingham State.
Goalie of the Week: — Robert Vorse, Fitchburg: The junior made 30 saves in the Falcons’ 3-1 win over Westfield State.
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