Playoff preparation in the ECAC Northeast and MASCAC

Four ECAC Northeast and MASCAC teams have at least a week off between conference playoff games, and the obvious task would be to do whatever a team possibly could to stave off monotony in that time.

However, when asked how he’ll keep his team fresh between its final regular-season game and its first playoff game, Wentworth Coach R.J. Tolan had a simple answer.

“That’s a great question,” said Tolan, whose team won the regular-season ECAC Northeast title. “I think we’re trying to walk the line of, get some rest, but compete as hard as we can on the days we do practice, to keep that momentum going and to give us the best chance to win, against whomever we play.”

Plymouth State has a week off between Tuesday’s regular-season finale and its MASCAC semifinal, and Panthers coach Craig Russell had a similar answer.

“That’s an interesting question,” said Russell, whose team won the regular-season MASCAC title. “I haven’t figured that out yet. I gave the guys off (Wednesday) so I can figure that out.”

Wentworth and Plymouth join Curry and Salem State as the four teams that have earned first-round byes in their respective conference playoff tournaments.

In the ECAC Northeast, Wentworth will face the lowest remaining seed at 8 p.m., Wednesday, February 29, in a semifinal, and Curry will face the highest remaining seed at 7:35 p.m. Wednesday in the other conference semifinal.

Western New England will host Johnson and Wales at 1:45 p.m. Saturday in a quarterfinal, and Nichols will host Becker at 2:40 p.m. Saturday in a quarterfinal.

In the MASCAC playoffs, Plymouth State will face either Fitchburg State or Worcester State at 6 p.m. Tuesday in a semifinal, while Salem State will face either Massachusetts-Dartmouth or Westfield State at 7 p.m. Tuesday in a semifinal.

The ECAC Northeast championship and MASCAC championship games are scheduled for March 3, and the tournament champions will earn automatic berths to the NCAA Division III tournament.

Wentworth takes an eight-game winning streak into the postseason, including last Thursday’s 5-3 win over Curry, in which the Leopards scored four third-period goals to help secure the league championship.

“The group I have this year, they don’t really care whether or not it’s winning eight in a row,” Tolan said. “They’ve done a great job of competing every single day.

“They bonded each day they’ve worked together since the start of the school year. Whether it’s winning a few in a row or having some tough days, it’s never perfect. But we’re excited to have an opportunity to compete in the playoffs.”

Tolan, however, knows one key for his team, one that he’s impressed upon the Leopards through the course of the regular season.

“If we simplify it — show up on time, have fun, and work as hard as humanly possible and compete –  the rest works itself out,” Tolan said.

Despite going 1-4-2 from Jan. 7 to Jan. 26, a stretch in which Russell said his team was “snake-bitten,” Plymouth State ended the regular season on a seven-game unbeaten streak, including Tuesday’s 4-4 tie with Fitchburg State.

“We knew we had talent and could create consistency,” Russell said. “The biggest thing for us was to maintain our fitness level and stay strong through the entire season. The postseason is different. When it’s one-and-done, you’ve got to put it all together for that night, whether it’s for s60 minutes or 80 minutes or even 100, double, triple or quadruple overtime.”


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