Men’s D-III Playoff Preview: Neumann

Neumann Knights
Last NCAA Appearance: 2009 (National Champions), second NCAA appearance in 10 years
Best NCAA Finish: First — 2009

Neumann Team Stats
ECAC West Regular Season: 7-4-1 (Second)
Overall Record: 14-8-5
Power Play: 19.4 percent
Penalty Kill: 81.6 percent
Offense: 3.15 goals per game
Defense: 2.69 goals per game

Neumann Individual Stats
Scoring Leaders
Michael Rey (Fr.) — 15 goals, 15 assists
William Lacasse (Jr.) — 5 goals, 16 assists
Steve Gervais (So.) — 8 goals, 11 assists

Ross Mackinnon (So.) — .916 save percentage, 2.56 goals against average

After losing the ECAC West Championship game to Elmira last Saturday, Neumann’s hopes of an NCAA tournament bid were on thin ice. The Knights could make a good case based on strength of schedule, but too many upsets in other league tournaments might have left Neumann without a seat when the music stopped.
Fortunately for Neumann, the chips fell perfectly in the other league playoffs and the Knights received a Pool C bid into the tournament.

“We got some love,” said Neumann coach Dominick Dawes. “The kids are extremely excited. All day Sunday, they were chomping at the bit to find out what was going on. With the strength of schedule and how many quality opponents we have played and beaten, we were pretty confident. We’ve proven over the course of the year that we can play with anybody.”

The Knights felt the sting of losing in the playoffs last weekend as they watched Elmira celebrate. Getting a second chance for playoff glory has not been lost on the team, as they fully realize now what the alternative feels like.

“We talked a little about letting go but not forgetting about it,” said Dawes. “They know what it feels like now to be done. We are very fortunate to have an opportunity to not be done and need to take advantage of it. They know what it feels like to watch Elmira celebrate. We have a second life, and let’s not let that happen again.”

Neumann has drawn Bowdoin in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Wednesday. The trip from Neumann in southeastern Pennsylvania to Bowdoin in Maine is just under 500 miles, so Neumann hit the road Monday evening and stopped over in Hartford, Conn. They finished the trip Tuesday in time to get in a practice at Bowdoin’s rink later in the afternoon. Long-distance travel is nothing new for Neumann, as the university is over two hours from the next closest Division III team.

“We’re used to getting on the bus,” joked Dawes.

While Neumann has never faced Bowdoin on the ice, coach Dawes is familiar with the Polar Bears. He played at Norwich for four years and was an assistant coach at Hamilton prior to taking the reigns at Neumann,

“Playing at Norwich and coaching at Hamilton for a couple of years, I am pretty familiar with them,” said Dawes. “They have a successful program. Offensively, they are extremely talented and can put the puck in the net. They lead the country in power play. For us, it is focus on what we can do well, beating them to pucks, playing physical, being aggressive, and going from there.”

This is the first time Neumann returns to the NCAA tournament since the run to the national championship in 2009. That was a magical team, dominated by a senior class that refused to see their season come to an end. Like this year, that team persevered through a series of long road trips. The players that were underclassmen in 2009 are team leaders now, and are using that experience as the Knights continue down the playoff road.

“Those guys, having gone through that experience, have been talking to the guys about the road trips we had to do then,” said Dawes. “Having them talk about the experience in general brings a lot.”