(Release courtesy NEHC)
MARSHFIELD, Mass. – The New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) men's division has announced its pairings for the postseason tournament. Norwich University claimed its 18th regular season title in the past 19 seasons and earned the No. 1 overall seed in the NEHC postseason tournament.
Norwich will await the quarterfinal round outcomes to learn their opponent for the semifinals. No. 2 New England College will host No. 7 University of Southern Maine. No. 3 Babson College will host No. 6 University of Massachusetts Boston while No. 4 Castleton University will welcome No. 5 Skidmore College.
The Cadets will receive a bye into the semifinals and will play the lowest advancing seed out of the quarterfinal round on Saturday, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. Norwich ranks third in the nation in team defense, surrendering only 1.72 goals per game to their opponents. On offense they are led by three seniors in William Pelletier (St. Jean Chrysostome, Quebec), Cody Smith (Hudson, Mass.) and Tyler Piacentini (South Weymouth, Mass.) who sit third (26 points), fourth (25 points) and fifth (24 points) in NEHC scoring respectively. Piacentini ranks second in goal scoring with 12 with Smith leading the way in assists with 23. Pelletier's 10 goals and 16 assists have come in only 12 games played. His 2.17 points per game outrank all other NEHC skaters.
New England College secured the second seed thanks to a thrilling victory over Babson College on Saturday night. The Pilgrims boast one of the most balanced teams in the country, ranking 12th nationally in team offense (4.00 g/gm) and ninth defensively (2.08 g/gm). No one in the NEHC has played more minutes between the pipes than Brett Kilar (Coto de Caza, Calif.) who's played an astounding 1,066 minutes; all while ranking in the top five in-league for goals against average (1.97), save percentage (.942) and winning percentage (.722). Andreas Zöllner (Varnamo, Sweden) and Bryce Nielsen (Laguna Hills, Calif.) have led the way on offense with their 20 and 19 points among the tops in the NEHC.
Junior Brett Norman (Dawson Creek, B.C.) leads the Huskies on offense with 16 points on five goals and 11 assists in league play. Blueliner Cole Klippenstein (Franklin, Tenn.) ranks in the top four of defenseman scoring with his seven goals and six assists. Freshman defender Brendan Murphy (St. Peters, Mo.) has put up an impressive first year campaign. His 11 points (3 goals and 8 assists) are second in the NEHC for freshman defenseman scoring.
No. 3 Babson will play host to crosstown rival and No. 6 UMass Boston in a rematch of last season's NEHC Championship bout. Babson's defense has been impressive all season, surrendering a miniscule 1.92 goals per game to their opponents, good for fourth in the country. The dynamic duo of Matt Pompa (Palm City, Fla.) and Bryan Botcher (Mequon, Wis.) has split time in net for the Beavers. The sophomores sit first and second in the league in save percentage with Pompa at .955 and Botcher at .943. Babson has a balanced offensive attack with five players notching double-digit points in league play. Leading the way are Tommy Munichiello (Weymouth, Mass.) and Rob Devaney (reading, Mass.) who have scored 15 and 14 points respectively.
The Beacons once against boast a potent offense, averaging 3.33 goals per game in league play. Colin Larkin (Waterford, Mich.) and Ryan Cusin (Detroit, Mich.) sit atop the NEHC with 30 points apiece. Larkin's 15 goals leads the league in goal scoring while Cusin's 11 goals and 19 assists lead all freshmen in scoring. Nolan Redler(Winchester, Mass.) has also had an impressive first season with Beacons whose 20 points (eight goals and 12 assists) trail only Cusin in freshman point scoring.
No. 4 Castleton will host rival and league travel partner No. 5 Skidmore. During the regular season the teams played to two overtime draws. Brock Labelle (Memphis, Tenn.) leads the Spartans on offense with 20 points (8th in NEHC). Senior Bart Moran (Calgary, Alta.) led the conference with six power play goals on the year while freshman Otis Goldman (Vancouver, B.C.) has provided some magic for Castleton with his three game-winning tallies.
Once again Skidmore's Anthony Bird (Central Square, N.Y.) finds himself amongst the conference leaders as his 11 goals and 10 assists for 21 points ranks sixth in the NEHC. Defenseman Corey Morgan (Ridgewood, N.J.) ranks among the league's top blueline scorers with 14 points on four goals and 10 assists. Senior Marc Cibelli(Liverpool, N.Y.) ranks second on the team in conference scoring with 15 points. His 11 assists are good for 14th in the NEHC.
Saint Anselm College (7-10-1) and Saint Michael's College (4-13-1) will participate in the Northeast-10 postseason tournament. Saint Anselm finished the season 7th in the NEHC regular season standings while Saint Michael's finished 9th. Saint Anselm and Saint Michael's were declared co-Champions of the Northeast-10 regular season.
Full NEHC Tournament pairings listed below:
#1 Norwich (21-1-3, 16-1-1 NEHC) – bye into semifinals, will play lowest advancing seed.
#2 New England College (17-7-0, 13-5-0 NEHC) vs. #7 Southern Maine (9-14-2, 5-12-1 NEHC) – 7:00pm
#3 Babson (14-8-3, 11-5-2 NEHC) vs. #6 UMass Boston (12-10-3, 7-9-2 NEHC) – 7:00pm
#4 Castleton (10-9-6, 9-5-4 NEHC) vs. #5 Skidmore (10-11-4, 9-6-3 NEHC) – 7:00pm