Anything can happen in the playoffs as evidenced by the number of overtime wins and upsets last week pulled off by Wentworth, Franklin Pierce, Nichols, Nazareth, Stonehill and Potsdam to name a few that stunned higher seeds in early round action. While some of the other favorites won and advanced a few nationally ranked teams are hoping their regular season record will be enough to merit consideration for the NCAA tournament having seen an early exit in the conference championship tourney.
Here is this week’s wrap-up of a crazy playoff week in the East:
The week got off to a dramatic start with first round action early in the week. Wentworth, the lowest seed in the CCC tournament traveled to Curry and stunned the home team with a dramatic 2-1 win fueled by 51 saves from Connor Carbo in goal for the Leopards. Sam Milnes and Kasey O’Brien provided the offense in the second period sending Wentworth off to a meeting with No. 1 seed University of New England on Saturday.
The other quarterfinal saw a dogfight between Nichols and Salve Regina with the Bison emerging with the big road win with a 5-4 overtime win. Nichols had one-goal leads three times in the contest only to see the Seahawks battle back. The tying goal from Mitch Walinski in the third period came with the extra attacker on the ice and just 59 seconds remaining in regulation. In overtime the Bison got the game-winner from Nicholas Mangone at 8:31 of overtime to advance to the semifinals and another road contest at Endicott.
Wentworth continued their tight playoff style play and started out right against UNE by scoring first off the stick of Adam Tracey. UNE tied the score in the second period but Wentworth’s Nate Chase scored on the power play to give the visitors a 2-1 lead that Connor Carbo made stand up for another 2-1 road win.
Nichols also got out to a good start against Endicott on Saturday as they jumped to a 2-0 lead on goals from Hunter Fraser and Justin Perron after two periods of play. In the third period the Gulls rallied to tie the score at 2-2 on markers from Erik Manoukian and Noah Strawn. Despite outshooting Nichols 51-30, Endicott could not find the game winner until Zach Mazur scored at 2:15 in the overtime session to send Endicott to the title game next Saturday. Goaltender Conor O’Brien earned his 20th win of the season for the Gulls.
After the final seedings were determined on Tuesday, the first round of the playoffs saw the MASCAC seeds hold to form and advance to match-ups of the top four teams in the standings in semifinal action on this Tuesday night.
Massachusetts-Dartmouth had no trouble in dispatching Worcester State on Saturday as the Corsairs ran off to a convincing 6-0 win at home. Five power play goals and a five-point night from Steven Leonard punctuated the shutout win for UMD. Goaltender Daniel Davidson moved to 5-4-3 on the season making 24 saves for the shutout.
In the other first round game, it was Salem State that started fast against Westfield State jumping to a 2-0 lead on a pair of first period goals from Luca Ragosta. The second period was scoreless but the Owls were not going to go quietly and forward Daniel Backstrom’s third period hat trick provided all the comeback goals for a 3-2 win.
The semifinal matchups for Tuesday find Massachusetts-Dartmouth traveling to Fitchburg State while Westfield State will go on the road to face top-seed Plymouth State. The winners will play for the conference title on Saturday at the highest remaining seed.
Just four teams qualified for the post-season tournament and the two semifinal games saw stunning upsets by the visitors in very exciting fashion.
Stonehill faced St. Michael’s for the third time in just over a week and finally found a way to beat the Purple Knights when it mattered most. After a scoreless first period, the teams exchanged a pair of goals each in the second period before Stonehill’s Nicholas Godin and St. Michael’s Thomas Flack scored in the third period to leave the score tied at 3-3 at the end of regulation. Just 2:15 into the extra session, Ryan Meade scored a controversial goal which stood after a lengthy review by the officials giving Stonehill the stunning 4-3 win. Goaltender Matthew Schoen made 34 saves as Stonehill was outshot by a 37-32 margin.
In the other semifinal game, Franklin Pierce faced the No. 1 seed Assumption, and in a game similar to the Stonehill/St. Michael’s game emerged with a stunning 4-3 overtime win over the Greyhounds. Assumption got off to the early lead with a two-goal first period only to see the Ravens answer in the second period on goals from Alex Lester and Stephen Jacobs. After John Pigott gave the home team an early lead in the third period, Jacobs again answered for Franklin Pierce sending the game to overtime. In the extra session, Chris Stevenson scored an unassisted goal to give the Ravens the win and championship game matchup with Stonehill on Saturday.
The semifinal matchups held to form with the higher seeds advancing to Saturday’s championship game that will be hosted by top-seed Norwich.
The Cadets took care of business by routing upset-minded Southern Maine by a score of 5-0. The shutout win was Tom Aubrun’s eighth in a row and 12th of the season extending a record scoreless streak for D-III hockey. Five different players including Gabriel Chicoine, Matt Burchill and Braedyn Aubin each picked up two-point games in the win that sets up Norwich to host the NEHC title game on Saturday.
Hobart hosted a very good new England College team in the other semifinal and emerged with the big 4-2 win on Saturday. Zach Sternberg scored twice in the first two periods helping the Statesmen build a 3-1 lead but Alex Laplante scored for the Pilgrims late in the second period to make it a 3-2 contest entering the final 20 minutes of regulation. Hobart’s Zach Tyson stuck the dagger in the Pilgrims late in the third period with a shorthanded goal that extended the lead to 4-2 and NEC could not get anything else past goaltender Liam Lascelle for Hobart.
Hobart will face Norwich for the title hoping to end their current shutout streak that they started back on January 25th in a 3-0 loss to the Cadets.
The quarterfinal round only provided one mild upset as the top-three seeds advanced and Wesleyan upset Middlebury to advance to championship weekend.
Top seed Williams jumped out to a 3-0 lead on first period goals from Mac Carso, Will
Somers and Nick Van Belle. Connecticut College answered with goals from Matt Creamer and Colin Stevens in the second period but that was all of the scoring as Cosimo Lazzarino made 34 saves in earning the 3-2 win for the Ephs who will host championship weekend for the NESCAC Final Four.
Trinity had a battle with Amherst despite outshooting the Mammoth by a 45-22 margin. Three times the Bantams took one-goal leads only to see Amherst respond and tie the game. With just 3:01 remaining in regulation, Lucas Michaud scored to give Trinity a 4-3 lead and Jack McCarthy iced the win with an empty-net goal at 18:56 to help Trinity advance to the semifinal round.
Hamilton hosted Bowdoin and skated off to a 5-1 win. Bennett Morrison scored goals in the first and third periods and a three-goal second period broke open the game for the Continentals who will face Trinity in the semifinals next Saturday.
Wesleyan rallied with a three-goal third period to overcome Middlebury’s 2-1 lead after two periods and skate away with a 4-2 road win. Goals from Jordan Rose, Hunter Vannier and Emmet Powell rallied the Cardinals to the win in front of Tim Sestak’s 21 saves. Wesleyan will face Williams on Saturday in a semifinal game.
Geneseo and Oswego were watching the first round action intently for the probable semifinal matchups to be played on the weekend.
On Wednesday night, Potsdam surprised No. 3 seed Buffalo State by upsetting the Bengals by a 3-1 score. After spotting the home team a 1-0 lead on Vadim Vasjonkin’s first period goal, the Bears fired off three unanswered tallies in the final two periods to earn the win. Rob Clerc and Bryce Farrell gave Potsdam a 2-1 lead after two periods of play and Tom Terranova scored the cushion goal in the third period for Potsdam. Michael Paglucca earned the win making 25 saves for Potsdam.
In the other first round game, Plattsburgh traveled to Brockport and needed double overtime to upset the Golden Eagles by a 3-2 score. Christian DeFelice got the Cardinals off to a fast start with two goals for an early 2-0 lead that Brockport battled back from. Doc Gentzler made it a one-goal game with his second period goal and Jordan Renaud sent the home crowd over the edge when he tied the game in the final 64 seconds with the goalie pulled for an extra attacker. Neither team could score in the first overtime period but Matt Araujo won it for Plattsburgh with a power play goal and just under nine minutes remaining in the second overtime period. Jimmy Poreda stopped 37 of 39 shots to earn the win and semifinal date with Oswego.
Due to compressor malfunctions at Oswego’s Marano Campus Center Arena, the semifinal game with Plattsburgh had to be moved to Tuesday, March 3 so the spotlight fell on the upset-minded Potsdam Bears and their effort to knock off the No. 1 seed Geneseo on Saturday.
The Knights didn’t give the Bears much hope as Conlan Keenan and Brendan Miller gave the hosts a 2-0 first period lead. The floodgates opened in the second period when the Knights scored five times including Keenan’s second of the game and Andrew Romano’s first of the night. Both Keenan and Romano finished with four-point games in the 7-0 win over Potsdam. Geneseo awaits the winner of Tuesday’s re-scheduled game between Plattsburgh and Oswego for the SUNYAC title next Saturday.
Nazareth opened the playoffs on Tuesday traveling to No. 4 seed Elmira and the Golden Flyers stunned the home crowd with a 5-2 win. Casey Kubara scored two goals and added an assist while goaltender Michael Tilford made 36 saves in the upset win that sent Nazareth off to the semifinal round against Utica.
In the other first round game, Stevenson and Neumann played an offensive affair that ended up with the Mustangs winning 8-4 on Wednesday night. Nick Gray scored a hat trick for Stevenson while teammate Justin Stelzer added two more goals as Stevenson peppered Neumann’s Kyle Pantelone with 45 shots on the night. Stevenson earned a weekend series with Wilkes in the semifinal round.
On Friday night, in game one, Wilkes continued the offensive showcase going downing Stevenson 7-5. The Colonels needed a four-goal third period to assure the win and forward Danny Reidel scored two goals and assisted on two more to pace the offense. On Saturday, in game two, Stevenson rallied back for a 3-2 win to even the series. Chris Lee scored the tying goal and Austin Master scored the winning goal in the second period for the Mustangs who leaned on goaltender Ryan Kenny to keep a clean sheet in the third period for the win. The split of the two games meant there was a mini-game to decide the winner. After on scoreless 20-minute overtime session, the game went to sudden-death in a second overtime period where Tyler Barrow rocketed a shot of an offensive zone face-off win to give Wilkes the 1-0 win and advancement to the UCHC championship series.
Nazareth faced the challenge of a strong Utica squad on home ice and dropped game one to the Pioneers by a 5-2 score. John Moncovich scored two goals in the third period along with one from Daniel Fritz to break open a 2-2 game for the Utica win. On Sunday in game two, Utica broke open a scoreless game in the second period with goals by Donovan Ott, Cameron Bartkoski and Vaden McManus for a 3-0 lead. Nazareth would not go away and goals by Casey Kubara and James McDonald made it a one-goal game with still over ten minutes remaining in regulation time. Utica and Gianluca Baggetta held on for the 3-2 win and two-game sweep putting the Pioneers back in the championship series. Utica will host Wilkes next weekend.
Daniel Backstrom – Westfield State – scored all three goals for the Owls in the third period sparking a 3-2 comeback win over Salem State in the MASCAC playoffs on Saturday.
Connor Carbo – Wentworth – stopped 79 of 81 shots in backstopping Wentworth to upset playoff wins over Curry and New England College.
Tyler Barrow – Wilkes – scored the sudden death overtime winner in double overtime to send Wilkes past Stevenson 1-0 in the deciding mini-game and advance Wilkes to the UCHC championship round.
There are three games remaining on the semifinal playoff docket on Tuesday including the re-scheduled Plattsburgh v. Oswego game in the SUNYAC tournament. Championship Saturday next week is what all the teams remaining are focused on – looking to win a conference title and represent their league in the NCAA tournament.