The final weekend for most conferences provided yet again more excitement and drama as SUNYAC and NESCAC finalized their playoff positions, while the ECAC West, CCC, and MASCAC will play some early-week hockey to make up games postponed by winter weather and other causes. The games this past week created the final scenarios for teams looking to stay in the home-ice hunt for conference tournament play. Nothing better than playoff style hockey leading into the playoffs!
Elsewhere in the playoffs that already started, the NEHC held to form while a No.1 seed in the NE-10 fell in the semifinals with Assumption upsetting St. Anselm. Get ready, it is going to be a great ride into March!
Here is the wrapup for games that were impactful to the playoff schedule, as well as a summary of playoffs already in play.
Endicott wrapped up the regular season atop the standings by way of a 6-0 win over Becker combined with Nichols’ 4-1 loss to Curry. Tommy Besinger picked up five points with two goals and three assists in the win.
With Nichols and Salve Regina both having completed their regular-season schedules, their present seeding may not stay the same as Curry’s game on Monday night against Johnson & Wales could change the standings. The Colonels helped themselves immensely with a key win on Saturday over Nichols, with Curry scoring three times in the third period to break open a 1-1 tie. The Colonels got 35 saves from Brett Sinclair and won the special teams battle with a pair of power-play goals while holding the Bison to one-for-seven with the man advantage.
Utica wanted to avenge an early-season loss to Nazareth on Friday night, but enters the ECAC West tournament on the heels of a 4-1 loss at home to the Golden Flyers. Dominik Gabaj gave the visitors a one-goal lead in the first two minutes of play and Justin LaCorte scored a pair of goals in the second period that would be all Michael Tilford would need in goal for Nazareth, who made 18 saves in the win.
The Hobart game at Elmira on Friday was postponed to Sunday but the Statesmen made a statement win over Elmira at home on Saturday night with a 7-1 win that pushed them into third place in the conference standings. Seven different goal scorers supplied the offense as Frank Oplinger picked up his seventh win of the season in goal. Friday’s game will be played at Elmira on Sunday night to close out the regular season.
Elsewhere on Friday, Neumann took a 4-3 win over Manhattanville on Collin O’Neil’s goal midway through the third period. In the game, the Knights’ Jory Mullin scored his 25th and 26th goals of the season to lead the nation in that category.
With wins over Salem State and Fitchburg State by 4-0 and 4-1 scores respectively, Plymouth State has clinched the top seed in the conference tournament. However the no. 2 and no. 3 seeds are not yet decided, as games postponed due to weather will be played early this upcoming week to decide where Massachusetts-Dartmouth and Salem State slot in the bracket.
The Vikings followed Tuesday’s loss to Plymouth State with a 5-2 loss to the Corsairs on Thursday that inched the Corsairs within two points of the Vikings in the standings. On Saturday, Salem State posted a 3-2 win over Framingham State, with Michael Chen’s third-period goal breaking the 2-2 deadlock.
UMass Dartmouth took an easier path in its 7-2 win over Fitchburg State with four second-period goals opening up a 5-2 lead that helped them cruise to the win. Jeff Kirkwood chipped in with a pair of goals and an assist, while teammate Brandon Berkley added a goal and pair of assists in the win.
Tuesday night, Salem State plays at Worcester State while UMass Dartmouth travels to Framingham State in games that could impact the final standings and playoff pairings.
They play the games because what things look like on paper don’t always work out that way. On Saturday, Assumption started fast with two first-period goals from Ryan Gomez and Cam Laughlin and then held on behind great goaltending from Nick Commesso, who made 40 saves in a 4-3 win. Assumption had lost the regular season game 4-0 and was outshot badly in this game by a 43-19 margin, but held on to their lead and used Laughlin’s insurance marker in the third period to stand up as the game-winner in the semifinal round upset.
Assumption will play St. Michael’s in the NE-10 championship game next week as the Purple Knights knocked off Stonehill 4-1 on Saturday. Four different goal scorers accounted for the goals as St. Mike’s peppered William Palmer with 50 shots and held Stonehill to 0-7 on the power play in the win.
The quarterfinal round of the playoffs is in the books and while the games held to form according to the seeding, no one could have imagined the lopsided outcomes in each of the three games.
Goalie Brett Kilar kept his hot streak going in net For New England College as the Pilgrims blanked Southern Maine 3-0, with Kilar making 26 saves. Goals by Carlos Fornaris, William Riise, and Mike Whitehair provided all the support Kilar would need as the Pilgrims outshot the Huskies 52-26.
In a rematch of last year’s championship game, Babson blew open a 2-2 game with five third-period goals to eliminate Massachusetts-Boston 7-3. Bill Seligman, Ryan Gouveia, Tommy Munichiello, and Rob Devaney with a pair all scored in the third period to extend Babson’s winning streak to seven games on their home ice.
In the battle of travel partners, Skidmore leveraged four points from Brock Labelle and solid goaltending from Ryan Mulder to earn a 7-2 win. A four-goal third period, including a pair of goals from Ken Johnson, blew open the game where the visitors had the advantage in shots, 41-28, but the home team took better advantage of theirs, including both a power-play and short-handed goal.
Next weekend’s semifinal games finds No. 4 Castleton traveling to play No. 1 Norwich while No. 3 Babson takes on No. 2 New England College.
Hamilton was the big winner on the final weekend of NESCAC regular season play as they leveraged a 5-2 win over Middlebury and a 5-1 win over Williams to earn the No. 1 seed in the NESCAC tournament.
Williams made the biggest drop in the standings with the loss at Hamilton added to their Friday 1-0 loss at Amherst.
Trinity leveraged a pair of wins over travel partner Wesleyan to jump to third in the standings and solidify their home-ice position in the first round of the conference tournament, while Colby eked out a pair of one-goal wins to claim the No. 2 seed for the tournament.
Colby needed a dramatic third period comeback on Saturday against Tufts, including Nick O’Connor’s game-winner to claim a 3-2 victory that kept them in the second position in the standings, where the top three teams were separated by only two points.
The quarterfinal pairings next week include No. 8 Bowdoin at No. 1 Hamilton; No. 7 Wesleyan at No. 2 Colby; No. 6 Tufts at No. 3 Trinity; and No. 5 Amherst at No. 4 Williams.
Oswego closed out the regular season emphatically with a 6-1 win over Buffalo State, with forward Kenny Neil leading the offensive charge with four goals and an assist.
Plattsburgh earned the other first-round bye with a hard-fought win over Geneseo on Friday night that ended in a 1-0 win for the Cardinals. Plattsburgh and Geneseo finished with the same conference record, but Plattsburgh held the tiebreaker that earned them the second seed for the SUNYAC tournament. In a game that was virtually even in every category, Brady Rouleau outdueled the Knights’ Matt Leon and Matt Quilty’s second-period goal stood up as the game-winner for Plattsburgh in the key road win.
For the SUNYAC playoffs this week, Wednesday’s first-round games will feature No. 3 Geneseo hosting No. 6 Brockport while No. 4 Buffalo State will host No. 5 Fredonia.
JB Baker, Nichols: The freshman forward scored the game-winning goal and added three assists for a four-point night in Nichols’ 9-2 win over Suffolk on Wednesday night. The goal was Baker’s 15th on the season as he surpassed the 35-point plateau and is the leading scorer for Nichols this season in his rookie campaign.
Mike Kelly, Massachusetts-Dartmouth: Kelly posted a hat trick that included an even-strength goal, a short-handed goal, and a power-play goal in the Corsairs’ 5-2 win over Salem State on Thursday night. Kelly also added an assist on linemate Casey Shea’s goal to post a four-point evening. Shea also recorded four points with three assists to go with his third-period power-play goal, which was scored just 32 seconds after Kelly’s to seal the win for UMass Dartmouth.
Kenny Neil, Oswego: The forward figured in all but one of Oswego’s six goals on Saturday’s win over Buffalo State to close out the regular season. Neil picked up a pair of goals in both the second and third periods to add to a first-period assist for five points on the night. His four goals included two power-play markers and brought his season total to 17 on the season.
Brock Labelle, Castleton: The Spartans’ forward scored a pair of goals in the second period, staking Castleton to an insurmountable 3-0 lead in its quarterfinal game against Skidmore on Saturday. Labelle finished the night with two goals and two assists for four points in the 7-2 romp that advanced them to a semifinal date with top seed Norwich next week.
The preliminaries are almost all done. Now is the time for everyone to bring their best game to the ice in pursuit of a conference title and a chance to play for something more.