THE STORYLINE: No. 5/5-ranked Norwich (18-4-3, 13-4-1 NEHC) opens its quest for its 13th New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) Tournament title on Saturday when it hosts Suffolk University in a quarterfinal round matchup at 7 p.m. in Kreitzberg Arena.
The Cadets earned the No. 2 seed for the NEHC Tournament after sweeping New England College and Southern Maine on the last weekend of the regular season to pull ahead of Babson College after they entered the final weekend tied in the standings. Suffolk (8-16-0, 5-13-0 NEHC) earned the No. 7 seed in its first year in the league.
NU is red-hot in 2019, going 12-0-2 and riding a 14-game unbeaten streak into the playoffs. Suffolk is coming off being swept by Hobart and Skidmore in the last week of the regular season.
WHAT'S AT STAKE: A berth in the NEHC Tournament semifinals is on the line on Saturday. Norwich will be looking to make its 10th straight league tournament semifinal appearance, while Suffolk will be looking for its first NEHC playoff win in program history.
In the other three quarterfinal matchups, No. 1-seed UMass Boston hosts No. 8-seed Southern Maine, while No. 3 Babson hosts No. 6 Skidmore. No. 4 and defending NEHC Tournament champion Hobart hosts No. 5 New England College as well in the last quarterfinal matchup.
The top two seeded teams that win their quarterfinal matchups, will host semifinal games on Saturday, Feb. 23. With a victory, Norwich would guarantee itself to host one more playoff game at Kreitzberg Arena. Norwich's last loss in the NEHC quarterfinal round was in 2009, 1-0 in overtime to UMass Boston.
THE SERIES: Tonight marks just the third all-time meeting between Norwich and Suffolk in men's ice hockey. Suffolk is in its first year in the NEHC, after playing in the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) prior. Suffolk beat Norwich 1-0 earlier this season at Kreitzberg Arena. Norwich responded with an 8-1 win down in Boston two weekends ago.
THE COACHES: Norwich is led by first-year head coach Cam Ellsworth, who replaced the legendary Mike McShane as the Cadets' bench boss this past summer. Ellsworth previously served as an assistant and associate head coach at UMass Lowell for seven seasons prior to coming to Northfield.
Suffolk is led by Chris Glionna, who is in his 15th season at the helm of his alma mater. Glionna is a 1995 graduate of Suffolk and has compiled a 124-214-33 record and is the winningest coach in program history.
ABOUT THE CADETS: Norwich is led offensively by sophomore forward Felix Brassard (St. Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec), who has nine goals and 17 assists for 26 points this season. Freshman Brett Ouderkirk (Monkland, Ontario) leads the team with 13 goals to go along with 11 assists for 24 points.
Sophomore Coby Downs (Montclair, Calif.) has five goals and a team-leading 18 assists for 23 points.
In goal, junior Tom Aubrun (Chamonix, France) has compiled a 15-3-3 record with a 1.74 goals against average and a .926 save percentage to go along with five shutouts.
ABOUT THE RAMS: Suffolk is led offensively by senior captain defenseman Mikhail Bryan, who has nine goals and 15 assists for 24 points and was a CCC All-Conference selection one year ago.
Sophomore Jack Kelly leads the team in goals with 12 and also has 11 assists for 23 points. Junior Brian Brooks has five goals and 10 assists for 15 points, while senior Tommy Bishop has six goals and six assists for 12 points.
Senior LJ Fellows rounds out the Rams' top-five offensive leaders with four goals and eight assists for 12 points. In goal, senior Michael Levine is 6-14-0 with a 3.57 goals against average and a .898 save percentage.
By the Numbers: (national rank)
Norwich: 3.44 (22nd)
Suffolk: 2.83 (46th)
Norwich: 1.68 (4th)
Suffolk: 3.71 (66th)
PENALTY MINUTES PER GAME-
Norwich: 7.5 minutes (83rd)
Suffolk: 17.1 minutes (10th)
Norwich: 23.4 percent (16th)
Suffolk: 18.2 percent (46th)
Norwich: 85.0 percent (23rd)
Suffolk: 83.2 percent (34th)