SATURDAY'S STORYLINE: No. 1 (USCHO) / No. 1 (d3hockey)-nationally ranked Norwich (24-1-3) continues the quest for its fourth NCAA Division III National Championship on Saturday when it hosts Hamilton College at 7 p.m. in Kreitzberg Arena in a NCAA Tournament Quarterfinal matchup.
The Cadets are coming off defeating MASCAC champion Salem State 3-1 in a first round matchup this past Saturday. Norwich won their 12th New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) Tournament title on March 4 with a 4-1 win over New England College. NU won its 18th NEHC regular season title in the last 19 years after a one-year hiatus last year. NU is making its 17th NCAA Tournament appearance and will be looking to add to its three titles coming in 2000, 2003 and 2010.
Norwich is unbeaten in 22 straight games coming into Saturday, a streak that started on Nov. 19 with a 4-0 win over Castleton. Norwich received a first-round bye in the NEHC Tournament by virtue of winning the league regular season title. The Cadets then beat Castleton 5-2 in the semifinals to advance to the NEHC Championship game for the seventh time in the last eight seasons. NU ended Castleton's season the last six years.
Hamilton (20-4-4) is making its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. The Continentals are having the best season in the program's 98-year history. Hamilton advanced to the quarterfinal round with a 3-1 victory over Oswego State last Saturday at the Marano Campus Center Arena in Oswego for its first NCAA Tournament victory in program history.
The Continentals established a new single-season record for victories in a season with their win over Oswego State. Hamilton won its second NESCAC regular season title this year with the other coming in 2011. The Continentals fell 3-2 in overtime to Trinity in the NESCAC Championship game.
WHAT'S AT STAKE: A spot in the NCAA Division III Frozen Four will be on the line on Saturday with the winner set to face the Wis. Stevens Point/Adrian winner on March 24 at the Utica Memorial Auditorium in Utica, N.Y.
Norwich is making its seventh appearance in the NCAA Quarterfinals in the last eight seasons. NU is 25-15-2 all-time in the NCAA Tournament. The Cadets continued their streak of winning at least one game in every NCAA Tournament appearance since 2008.
Norwich will be looking to make its 12th D-III Frozen Four appearance, while Hamilton will be looking to punch its first ticket to Division III men's hockey's ultimate weekend.
The other NCAA Quarterfinal matchups feature NESCAC champion Trinity hosting CCC champion Endicott. Trinity defeated SUNYAC champion Plattsburgh State 4-1, while Endicott upset ECAC West champion Hobart.
The other two quarterfinal matchups out west feature NCHA champion St. Norbert hosting MIAC champion Augsburg, while WIAC champion Wisconsin Stevens Point hosts Adrian College.
THE SERIES: Tonight marks the 89th all-time meeting between Norwich and Hamilton in men's ice hockey. The Cadets hold a 56-29-3 lead in the all-time series with the Continentals. NU won the last meeting 7-1 in 2010 at Sage Rink in Clinton, N.Y during the last year of the old ECAC East/NESCAC Interlock. Hamilton's last win came on Dec. 5, 2008 in a 4-1 victory at Sage Rink.
THE COACHES: Norwich is led by Mike McShane, who is in his 22nd year 475-123-36 record. He recorded his 700th career victory on Nov. 19, 2016 in a win over Castleton, becoming just the seventh coach at any level in NCAA history to accomplish the feat. He is 719-341-73 all-time in 36 seasons between NU, St. Lawrence and Providence. He was named the NEHC Coach of the Year for the 10th time this season. McShane has guided the Cadets to 18 of the last 19 league regular season championships.
Hamilton is led by Rob Haberbusch, who is in his sixth season as the head coach of the program. The 1993 Fairfield graduate has compiled a 61-67-23 record and earned the 2017 NESCAC Coach of the Year award. He coached previously at Division I Findlay, Iona and Army West Point.
Senior defenseman Cody Smith (2-30-32) is third in the nation for points by a defenseman and was also named to the NEHC All-Conference First Team. He is just three points away from tying Bill Nash's single-season record for assists of 33. Seniors Tyler Piacentini (15-13-28) and Anthony Flaherty (10-19-29) round out Norwich's top-five offensive leaders.
In goal, junior Braeden Ostepchuk has a perfect 15-0-0 record with a 1.71 goals against average and a .927 save percentage. He was named to the NEHC Second Team along with Piacentini. Senior Ty Reichenbach is 9-1-3 with a 1.65 goals against average and a .934 save percentage. He was just named to the NEHC All-Tournament team after making 27 saves on 28 shots in the 4-1 win over NEC in the finals.
SCOUTING THE CONTINENTALS: Hamilton is led offensively Neil Conway, who has eight goals and 20 assists for 28 points. Brandon Willett (12-9-21) and Jason Brochu (12-8-20) are tied for the team lead in goals. Willett earned NESCAC First Team honors.
Senior defenseman Jon Carkeek (4-17-21) and freshman Bennett Morrison (7-11-18) round out the top-five offensive leaders. Carkeek was named to the NESCAC Second Team.
In goal, junior Evan Buitenhuis ranks as one of the nation's top goalies with a 17-4-4 record, .945 save % and 1.66 GAA. Buitenhuis is a two-time NESCAC First Team All-Conference selection and was named the Player of the Year.
By the Numbers: (national rank)
Norwich: 4.25 (8th)
Hamilton: 3.21 (34th)
Norwich: 1.68 (2nd)
Hamilton: 1.71 (3rd)
PENALTY MINUTES PER GAME-
Norwich: 8.9 minutes (73rd)
Hamilton: 9.5 minutes (70th)
Norwich: 26.6 percent (6th)
Hamilton: 16.5 percent (54th)
Norwich: 83.5 percent (26th)
Hamilton: 89.9 percent (3rd)