Down to the final eight in men’s D-III tournament

Alec Thieda and Norwich play Amherst in an NCAA quarterfinal Saturday night (photo: Angelo Lisuzzo).

Eight teams are still alive in the NCAA men’s D-III tournament, but only four teams will have their national championship dreams alive after this weekend.

Our columnists break down the four quarterfinal games this Saturday and also make their picks for the weekend.

EAST – Dan Hickling

Norwich (25-3-1) @ Amherst (21-4-2). Still kind of a head-scratcher to see the top-ranked team in the nation hitting the road for a quarterfinal. The Cadets would certainly have prefered to remain at Kreitzberg, where they went a perfect 16-0-0 this season. No matter. Norwich has been pretty darned good on the road, too (8-3-1), although Amherst has also feasted at home, where the Lord Jeffs lost just once (Connecticut College). Point production at this stage of the season is uber-critical and Norwich sophomore William Pelletier holds the hot hand, having piled up five goals and 17 points in his last 11 games. That includes his two goal, one assist output in last Saturday’s 3-2 first round win over Plymouth State. Amherst, which enjoyed a first-round bye, is fueled by Andrew Fenwick, who has potted goals in four consecutive games and five in his last six. The teams did not meet this season.

Plattsburgh (20-5-2) @ Trinity (21-3-1). After having had a first-round bye, Platty will hit the road, where they were nearly flawless (9-0-1) this year. The Cards are actually the home team in this tilt, having been displaced by the Women’s Frozen Four which will be held at Stafford Arena. Home or away, the Cards approach is the same – that is play a 200 foot game and make the foe fight for every inch of ice. Balance is the Bantams’ byword – as they rank seventh in the nation in scoring (4.24 gpg) and fifth in preventing it (1.80 GAA). That nugget, plus the fact that 11 players amassed double-digit point totals, make Trinity a difficult team to play against.

WEST – Brian Lester

Three teams from the West Region are in the NCAA tournament, including Wisconsin-Stevens Point, the national runner-up from a year ago. The Pointers begin their quest for a championship on March 21 when they battle Hamline in a quarterfinal showdown.

The other team representing the West is Adrian, arguably the hottest team in the nation right now. The second-ranked Bulldogs have won 11 in a row, including a victory over 2014 national champion St. Norbert in the Harris Cup final. The Bulldogs will play Oswego on March 21.

Adrian is making its fifth NCAA tourney appearance and has been clicking offensively, scoring at least four goals in all but one game during its win streak.

Youth has served the Bulldogs well, with freshmen Kyle Brothers (23 goals, 25 assists) and Mathew Thompson (21-19) having phenomenal seasons. Senior Josh Ranalli has also risen to the occasion, racking up 17 goals and 27 assists to help fuel an explosive offensive attack.

The Bulldogs have scored 138 goals while allowing only 67 behind the stellar goalie play of Scott Shackell. The senior has played in 22 games, winning 17, and gives up less than two goals per game (1.89 goals-against average).

Adrian will have to be at its best for either quarterfinal opponent. Hobart has won its last 10 games and is coming off its third ECAC West tournament title in program history. The Statesmen are averaging nearly four goals (3.85) per game and feature Bo Webster, who has scored eight goals and tallied 17 assists.

Oswego is tough as well. The Lakers are in the national tourney for the sixth consecutive year and have made it to the final four each time. They are impressive offensively, scoring 115 goals, and they have allowed only 55. Shawn Hulshof leads Oswego with 19 goals and 21 assists.

The matchup between sixth-ranked Stevens Point and Hamline is intriguing. The Pointers (21-6-1) were expected to be back in the tourney this year after making a run to the title game last year.

Meanwhile, Hamline (14-10-4) has won only three games over the last two years and will hit the road for only its second tourney appearance in program.

The two teams met once in the regular season, with the Pipers prevailing 5-4 to end the Pointers’ six-game win streak on Jan. 9. That game was in Minnesota.

Stevens Point did not win the WIAC tourney title, falling 3-1 to Wisconsin-River Falls, and it will be anxious to get back on track as it takes aim at its fifth championship in program history.

The Pointers are dangerous offensively, racking up 122 goals, and Joe Kalisz has been impressive, scoring 16 goals while dishing out 13 assists. Kyle Sharkey has also scored 16 goals this season for a Pointers team that has five players with 10 or more goals.

Stevens Point also has the WIAC Player of the Year on its roster in Kevin Gibson, who has come through with seven goals and 22 assists.

Brandon Jaeger has done his job between the pipes, winning 21 games, including five shutouts. He owns a goals-against average of 2.29.

The Pipers won’t be rattled playing on the road in this game after winning both MIAC tournament games away from home, including a semifinal victory at St. Thomas.

Brandon Zurn and Charlie Adams have been the driving forces behind the Pipers’ success. Zurn has scored 16 goals and dished out 19 assists while Adams has come through with 19 goals and 14 assists.

Goalie John Sellie-Hanson has blanked three opponents and has won 12 games to anchor the Pipers’ defense.

Hamline won’t lack confidence in this showdown, although the Pointers have both confidence and experience working in their favor in what should be a competitive quarterfinal battle.


Dan Hickling

Norwich @ Amherst. Norwich 4, Amherst 2. The Cadets are just too strong to be denied their fifth Frozen Four appearance in the last half dozen years.

Plattsburgh @ Trinity. Plattsburgh 2, Trinity 1. Look for the Cards to score early then put on the clamps.

Brian Lester

Adrian (23-3-3) vs. Oswego (19-4-4): The Bulldogs come into this showdown on an 11-game win streak and are a heavy favorite to play for the national title next weekend in Minnesota.

The Bulldogs have scored at least four goals in all but one game during their streak and are led by freshmen sensations Kyle Brothers (23 goals, 25 assists) and Mathew Thompson (21-19).

Adrian has scored a total of 138 goals and has given up just 67. Goalie Scott Shackell has won 17 games.

Oswego dominated Hobart 6-1 in its tourney opener last weekend, ending the Statesmen’s 10-game win streak, and has scored 121 goals in all.

Shawn Hulshof, the SUNYAC Player of the Year, has scored 20 goals and dished out 21 assists to fuel the offensive attack while Matt Zawadzki has won 12 games between the pipes for the Lakers. Adrian, 6-4.

Plattsburgh (20-5-2) vs. Trinity (22-3-1): The Cardinals won the SUNYAC championship and are ready to go after a bye in the opening round. Toomey Connor leads Plattsburgh with 12 goals and 19 assists. Michael Cassidy has come through with 12 goals and 14 assists.

Trinity topped Nichols 4-2 in its NCAA tourney opener, showing no signs of rust after being off since Feb. 28. The Bantams are led by NESCAC Player of the Year Ryan Cole, who has racked up 14 goals and 21 assists. Goalie Nathaniel Heilbron has won 17 games. Plattsburgh, 4-3.

Wisconsin-Stevens Point (21-6-1) vs. Hamline (14-10-4): The Pointers fell short of a championship a season ago and are hungry for an opportunity to finish the job. Playing at home and having the experience of being in this type of pressure-packed moment before should propel the Pointers on to Minnesota, although the Pipers certainly won’t make things easy. Stevens Point, 4-2.

Amherst (21-4-2) vs. Norwich (25-3-1): Amherst had a bye in the opening round and is eager to get back on the ice after winning the NESCAC championship. The Jeffs, in the tourney for the first time in three years, feature league freshman of the year David White, who has scored 18 goals and dished out 14 assists. Jake Turrin has come up with three goals and 12 assists.

Norwich edged Plymouth State 3-2 in the opening round, extending its 16th trip to the tournament for at least another week. The top-ranked Cadets are led by William Pelletier has tallied 38 points and ranks third in the country in points per game. Pelletier has scored 14 goals. Goalie Ty Reichenbach has won 14 games for the Cadets. Norwich, 5-2.