Here it is – championship week!
The semifinal rounds and championship games are all on tap this week, so with the number of teams dwindling down to the select few, the intensity of playing for hardware, bragging rights and a possible berth in the national tournament are all on the line.
The MASCAC and ECAC Northeast tournament semifinals get things started on Tuesday and Wednesday night, respectively.
Here is the first installment of the championship rounds around the East this week.
Both Salem State and Plymouth State earned byes to the semifinal round and will host games on Tuesday night.
The defending champions from Plymouth State are seeded second and will host Fitchburg State on Tuesday night. The Panthers swept the regular-season series by scores of 3-2, 3-1 and 4-1, with two of the wins coming on the road. The Panthers seem to be finding their game at the right time having gone 8-1-1 in their last 10 games and are 8-1-0 on home ice against conference opponents. Andrew Wigg and Ian McGilvrey lead the offense, while senior Gordon Caesar is 17-3-0 in goal for the Panthers. John Celli continues to be a spark offensively for the Falcons and freshman Charles Jakobsson will need to be great in goal for the visitors to pull the upset.
Top-seeded Salem State faces Westfield State on Tuesday night. The Vikings swept their season series with the Owls by scores of 3-1, 2-1 and 5-2. Salem State is riding an 11-game winning streak dating back to Jan. 12 and is a strong 8-1-0 at home against MASCAC opponents. Senior Cam Moniz leads a balanced offense and goalie Marcus Zelzer is 16-1-0 in goal for the Vikings. Dalton Jay leads the way for the Owls, who will need to find a way to get pucks past Zelzer while holding down a potent Salem State offense.
Top-seeded Endicott enters play in the semifinal round on Wednesday night against Wentworth and defending champion Nichols plays Salve Regina.
The Gulls won the regular-season title in their first season as a NCAA program and will be facing a Wentworth team that has been playing good hockey the last month of the season. The season series was split between the two teams with each winning on home ice. The goalies are likely to be in the spotlight in this game with conference Goalie of the Year Kevin Aldridge backing Endicott against Wentworth’s Joel Miller. Endicott has won their last three home games and outscored their opponents by a collective 17-1 in those three games, so the Leopards will need to get out of the gates quickly to challenge the Gulls.
The defending champions from Nichols host the other semifinal game against Salve Regina, a team they swept the season series from by scores of 5-2 and 7-6. The Seahawks are 5-2-0 in their last seven games, including a 4-0 road win at Endicott at the end of January. Freshman Blake Wojtala will need to be sharp in goal against the experience and scoring of seniors Paul Prescott, Tyler Beasley and Frank Butler, who want to retain their conference title. Senior Alex Larson earned his first shutout of the season in the Bison quarterfinal win over Becker and carries strong statistics in his 92 games played for Nichols.
Tuesday and Wednesday’s games set up the championship weekend which will be previewed in Part II coming on Thursday.