Men's Hockey: #1 Norwich vs. #4 UMass Boston - NEHC Semifinal Preview

Men's Hockey NEHC Semifinals Preview

SATURDAY'S STORYLINE: No. 12/13-nationally ranked Norwich continues its quest for its 13th NEHC Tournament title and third in the last four seasons when it hosts UMass Boston tonight at Kreitzberg Arena.

The No. 1-seeded Cadets won their 19th regular season title in the last 20 years to lock up home ice for the duration of the conference playoffs.

Norwich survived a double-overtime scare vs. Castleton last weekend in the quarterfinals. UMass Boston downed New England College 5-3 in their quarterfinal matchup. You can watch live video at www.nsnsports.net/colleges/norwich. Tickets are available at www.cadetstickets.com. Admission prices will be $6 for adults and $4 for non-Norwich students. 

WHAT'S AT STAKE: A berth to the NEHC Tournament Championship will be on the line on Saturday, pitting the two most recent NEHC Tournament champions against each other. Norwich will be looking to advance to its eighth NEHC Tournament Championship in the last nine seasons, while UMass Boston will be looking to make its second-ever appearance. 

In the other semifinal matchup; No. 2 Hobart hosts No. 3 Babson at 7 p.m. as well. 

The winner of the NEHC Tournament will gain an automatic bid into the 12-team NCAA Tournament that begins on Saturday, March 10. 

THE SERIES: Tonight marks the 53rd all-time meeting between Norwich and UMass Boston in men's ice hockey. The Cadets hold a 42-10-0 lead in the all-time series vs. the Beacons, including two wins this season by scores of 5-0 at Kreitzberg and 5-4 at UMass Boston.

The last time UMass Boston and Norwich met in the playoffs came back in the 2008-09 season when the No. 8-seeded Beacons stole a 1-0 victory over Norwich in the NEHC Quarterfinal round at Kreitzberg.

THE COACHES: Norwich is led by Mike McShane, who is in his 23rd year at the helm of the program and has compiled a 496-129-38 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 740-347-75 all-time in 37 seasons between NU, St. Lawrence and Providence.

UMass Boston is led by 12th-year head coach Peter Belisle, who is the all-time winningest coach in UMass Boston history. Belisle and McShane are the last two winners of the Ed Jeremiah National Coach of the Year award as well.

ABOUT THE CADETS: Norwich is led offensively by freshman forward Coby Downs, who has 10 goals and 12 assists for 22 points. Senior Kevin Salvucci (9-8-17) was named to the NEHC First Team, while sophomore Jordan Hall (9-8-17) has been impressive in his first season at Norwich.

Sophomore Todd Jackson (7-8-15) and senior NEHC First Team All-Conference selection Alec Brandrup (4-10-14) round out the Cadets' offensive leaders.

In goal, senior Braeden Ostepchuk was named the NEHC Goaltender of the Year and has an 11-5-2 record with a 1.99 GAA and .924 save %. Tom Aubrun is 7-1-0 with a 1.52 GAA and a .934 save %. 

ABOUT THE BEACONS: UMass Boston is led by the two-time NEHC Player of the Year, Colin Larkin (23-23-46).

Freshman Zack Bross (8-32-40) was the NEHC co-Rookie of the Year, while sophomore Nolan Redler (24-14-38), freshman Nick Albano (8-25-33) and sophomore Cody Wickline (7-12-19) round out UMass Boston's top offensive leaders.

In goal, sophomore Bailey MacBurnie is 16-7-0 with a 2.55 GAA and a .912 save %.

By the Numbers: (national rank)

SCORING OFFENSE-
Norwich: 3.23 (32nd)
UMass Boston:  4.54 (4th)

SCORING DEFENSE-
Norwich: 1.96 (10th)
UMass Boston:  2.73 (33rd)

PENALTY MINUTES PER GAME-
Norwich: 9.6 minutes (68th)
UMass Boston: 12.2 minutes (51st)

POWER PLAY-
Norwich: 26.7 percent (5th)
UMass Boston: 27.5 percent (2nd)

PENALTY KILL-
Norwich: 82.6 percent (38th)
UMass Boston: 85.7 percent (16th)