Men's Hockey: #1 Norwich vs. #2 Hobart - NEHC Championship Preview

Men's Hockey: #1 Norwich vs. #2 Hobart - NEHC Championship Preview

SATURDAY'S STORYLINE: No. 11/11-nationally ranked Norwich continues its quest for its 13th NEHC Tournament title and third in the last four seasons when it hosts No. 8/8 Hobart College on Saturday 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 two weeks ago in the quarterfinals and then doubled up UMass Boston by a 6-3 score this past Saturday in the semifinals. Hobart trounced Southern Maine 8-0 in the quarterfinals, before squeaking out a 3-2 win over Babson last Saturday.

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 NCAA Tournament will be on the line on Saturday. Norwich will be looking to win its 13th NEHC Tournament title and make its 18th NCAA Tournament appearance, while Hobart will be looking to win its first NEHC Tournament title in its inaugural season in the league and make its eighth NCAA Tournament appearance.  

The 12-team NCAA Tournament will be announced on Monday, March 5 via an online selection show on www.ncaa.com. First round matchups will take place on Saturday, March 10 with the quarterfinals set for March 17 and the final four to be held in Lake Placid, N.Y. on March 23 and 24.   

THE SERIES: Tonight marks the sixth all-time meeting between Norwich and Hobart in men's ice hockey. Hobart has had the Cadets' number so far this year, sporting a 2-0-1 record vs. NU, including two wins at Kreitzberg Arena. Hobart leads the all-time series 3-1-1 vs. Norwich.

This season marks Hobart's first year in the NEHC after playing in the former ECAC West Conference, which has now morphed in the UCHC.

THE COACHES: Norwich is led by Mike McShane, who is in his 23rd year at the helm of the program and has compiled a 497-129-38 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 741-347-75 all-time in 37 seasons between NU, St. Lawrence and Providence.

Hobart is led by 1985 Elmira College graduate Mark Taylor, who has a 287-152-47 career record in 18 seasons. He is a six-time AHCA National Coach of the Year finalist and a six-time ECAC West Coach of the Year.

ABOUT THE CADETS: Norwich is led offensively by freshman forward Coby Downs, who has 11 goals and 14 assists for 25 points. Senior Kevin Salvucci (10-9-19) 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 12-5-2 record with a 2.04 GAA and .924 save %. Tom Aubrun is 7-1-0 with a 1.52 GAA and a .934 save %.  

ABOUT THE STATESMEN:

Hobart is led offensively by junior NEHC First Team selection Jonas Toupal (15-16-31). Sophomores Lawson MacDougall (4-20-24) and Zach Sternbach (13-8-21) are each over 20 points, while junior Tanner Shaw (6-12-18) and senior Ben Greiner (6-11-17) round out the top-five scorers.

Mike Faulkner (4-12-16) was the co-Rookie of the Year.

In goal, Alexander Connal (9-3-2, 1.69 GAA, .929 save %) and Frank Oplinger (8-2-3, 2.06 GAA, .916 save %) have split the time.

By the Numbers: (national rank)

SCORING OFFENSE-
Norwich: 3.33 (23rd)
Hobart:  3.85 (13th)

SCORING DEFENSE-
Norwich: 2.00 (9th)
Hobart:  1.89 (6th)

PENALTY MINUTES PER GAME-
Norwich: 9.5 minutes (69th)
Hobart: 9.1 minutes (73rd)

POWER PLAY-
Norwich: 26.5 percent (4th)
Hobart: 24.0 percent (11th)

PENALTY KILL-
Norwich: 82.0 percent (39th)
Hobart: 84.9 percent (23rd)