MARSHFIELD, Mass. – The Norwich University men's ice hockey team claimed its 19th regular season title in the past 20 seasons and earned the No. 1 overall seed in the New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) postseason tournament.
Norwich will face No. 8 seed Castleton University. No. 2 Hobart College will host No. 7 University of Southern Maine. No. 3 Babson College will host sixth-seeded Skidmore College while No. 4 University of Massachusetts Boston will welcome fifth seed New England College. All games will be held at the campus of the highest seed on Saturday, February 17.
The Cadets have limited their opponents to a mere 1.92 goals against per game, ranking them sixth nationally. Along with their tough blue line play they can also attribute their defensive stinginess to goaltender Braeden Ostepchuk (Lethbridge, Alberta). Ostepchuk ranks second in the league, boasting a 1.99 goals against average while his .924 save percentage is good for third. Coby Downs (Montclair, Calif.) leads the Cadets offensively with 20 points on 10 goals and 10 assists. Senior Kevin Salvucci's (Plymouth, Mass.) 17 points (9 goals, 8 assists) rank second on the team.
The NEHC's newest members in Hobart College wasted no time in acclimating to their new league. The Statesmen were impressive all season and pushed perennial powers Norwich for the top seed until the last day of the regular season. Junior forward Jonas Toupal leads the way on offense with 28 points on 14 goals and 14 assists. Hobart also boasts a dynamic duo between the pipes in Alexander Connal and Frank Oplinger. Both goaltenders rank in the top five of the NEHC in goals against average and winning percentage. Connal's 1.69 goals against average also ranks fifth overall in the country.
The Beavers offense is led by four seniors in Matt McMorrow (8-15-23), Ryan Gouveia (12-9-21), Bobby Hall (11-10-21) and Charlie Ackerman (8-10-18). Babson boasts one of the best defenses in the league, surrendering just 2.44 goals per game. Junior netminder Matt Pompa continues his steady play, ranking in the top five of all league goaltending categories. Led by senior Colin Larkin UMass Boston boasts the fourth-best scoring offense nationally, averaging 4.52 goals per game. Larkin's 43 points (22 goals, 21 assists) tie him for second nationally while teammate Zack Bross' 38 points (8 goals, 30 assists) rank sixth in the country and tops amongst freshman. The Beacons will also look to underclassmen Nolan Redler (22-13-35) and Nick Albano (7-25-32) to maintain their torrid pace of play through the postseason.
The senior duo of Joe Osaka and Bryce Nielsen led the Pilgrims with 23 and 22 points respectively. Osaka's 14 goals tie him for third-most goals scored in league. Adam Zöllner has also notched 22 points on the year (7-15-22), good for eighth-most in the NEHC.
Skidmore College earned the sixth seed thanks to stellar goaltending down the stretch from Brandon Kasel and Brian Kowalski. The duo posted a 4-1-1 record over the final three weekends of the regular season. On offense the Thoroughbreds look to freshman Brandon Borges (7-10-17) to continue his impressive play.
The Huskies are led by second-year defenseman Brendan Murphy who's posted 12 points on four goals and eight assists. His 12 points rank fifth in the NEHC in defenseman scoring.
Castleton's Caleb Fizer has provided some magic on the power play this season, notching eight points and tying him for seventh in league on power play scoring. His four power play goals also rank sixth in the NEHC. Freshman Glenn Wiswell is also off to an impressive collegiate career as his 14 points (nine goals, five assists) tie him for seventh amongst NEHC first-years.
The NEHC postseason begins with quarterfinal action on Saturday, February 17. The semifinal round is scheduled for Saturday, February 24 with the league championship-taking place on Saturday, March 3. All games will be held at the campuses of the highest seed.
Full NEHC Tournament pairings listed below:
#1 Norwich (13-3-2) vs. #8 Castleton (3-14-1) – 7:00pm
#2 Hobart (12-3-3) vs. #7 Southern Maine (3-12-3) – 7:00pm
#3 Babson (12-4-2) vs. #6 Skidmore (4-12-2) – 7:00pm
#4 UMass Boston (11-7-0) vs. #5 New England College (7-10-1) – 7:00pm