Norwich off to strong start

Braeden Ostepchuk of Norwich (Amanda Brigham)
Braeden Ostepchuk of Norwich (Amanda Brigham)

Following last weekend’s back-to-back wins over conference rivals Massachusetts-Boston and Babson, the Norwich Cadets are sitting in a familiar perch atop the NEHC standings at 7-1-0. With an overall record of 9-1-1, the Cadets are ahead of last year’s 8-4-0 mark and playing with an edge that coach Mike McShane is liking up and down his lineup.

“Those were two big wins for us last weekend,” noted McShane who recently hit a milestone with his 700th career win in college hockey. “Our goaltending has been terrific this season so far. Braeden [Ostepchuk] has been outstanding and Ty [Reichenbach] stopped everything he needed to in beating Babson on Saturday. Cap Raeder is our goalie coach and has been working with both of them for a couple of years, which helps and I can tell you they are both in amazing condition. Cody Smith and Alec Brandrup are seeing a lot of time on the ice defensively and have been great in moving the puck quickly, creating some offense, and we have been getting a lot of scoring from different people.”

Despite an injury to William Pelletier, who has been out since the Skidmore game, as well as three games missed by captain Tyler Piacentini, the offense has clicked for 42 goals in the first 11 games of the season, and 15 of those have come on the power play. Kevin Salvucci, who is among five Cadets with 10 points, has five power-play goals among his team-leading seven goals this season. Piacentini is also a 10-point scorer despite missing games this season and recorded both goals in the 2-0 win over Babson on Saturday.

“We have had some injuries,” said McShane. “Pelletier has been out since Skidmore and we just got Tyler back this weekend, which is a big boost for the team. He really sets the tone out there but we have been getting production from different players and lines every night, which is great balance. It took us awhile to find some of the combinations we have going right now, but they seem to be working pretty well. Kevin is actually playing with two freshmen and Tyler and Paul [Russell] are playing with another freshman from North Carolina, Todd Jackson. All the new guys have brought a little edge to their game and that clearly shows on the ice.”

In full consideration of the home wins over two teams that have always been in the mix for the conference title, as well as the Primelink Tournament win over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, coach McShane isn’t looking for any downtime just yet for the Cadets, who face travel partner St. Michael’s on Saturday night in their final game before the semester break and the December holidays.

“St. Michael’s had a pretty good weekend last week too,” noted McShane. “They beat Babson and then tied Massachusetts-Boston, 5-5. I am watching the game film right now and this was a very even game so we can’t take them lightly at all. The break is actually going to be fairly short as we come back the day after Christmas before our tournament on New Year’s. This year we have Nazareth in the opening game and then could see either Williams or the current number one ranked Oswego team, so we have to continue to be playing good hockey right through if we want to have a successful season.”

In reflecting on the milestone win recently attained, McShane noted his satisfaction with the milestone but gave all due credit to his players and assistant coaches.

“I may be having more fun than ever,” said McShane. “You know I have been doing this for a long time at some great institutions and have had some great players and great teams over the years. Great players make any coach’s job easier, but I really enjoy this and especially my time here at Norwich, where I have great friends here at the school and in the community and constantly get the chance to see past players who come back to visit.”

The current level of play for the Cadets has their mentor very pleased and poised for significant additive wins to his already illustrious record, and maybe positioned for greater things in the New Year.

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