THE STORYLINE: No. 4/4-ranked Norwich (19-4-3, 13-4-1 NEHC) continue its quest for its 13th New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) Tournament title on Saturday when it hosts long-time rival No. 13/No. 12 Babson College in a semifinal 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 after they entered the final weekend tied in the standings. Babson (17-6-3, 11-4-3 NEHC) earned the No. 3 seed after splitting with UMass Boston on the final week of the regular season.
NU is red-hot in 2019, going 13-0-2 and riding a 15-game unbeaten streak into Saturday's matchup. Norwich edged out No. 7-seed Suffolk 1-0 with Jordan Hall's heroic goal with 1:49 left in the third period. Babson came from behind to down No. 6 Skidmore 2-1 at the Babson Skating Center last Saturday.
WHAT'S AT STAKE: A berth in the NEHC Tournament Championship is on the line on Saturday. Norwich will be looking to make its ninth final appearance in the last 10 seasons, while Babson will be looking to make its first appearance since 2016. The Beavers went to four straight finals from 2013-2016, beating Norwich in back-to-back years at Kreitzberg Arena in 2013 and 2014.
In the other semifinal matchup, No. 1-seed UMass Boston takes on No. 4-seed and defending NEHC Tournament champion Hobart at the Edward T. Barry Rink in Boston. UMass Boston beat Southern Maine 4-0, while Hobart disposed of New England College, 4-1.
The two semifinal winners will advance to the NEHC Championship game to be played on Saturday, March 2 at the highest remaining seed. Norwich would need Hobart to upset UMass Boston in order to host the final. If both Norwich and UMass Boston win, the Cadets would head to Boston for the final.
THE SERIES: Tonight marks the 76th all-time meeting between Norwich and Babson in men's ice hockey. The two historic New England rivals have combined to win seven of the last nine NEHC Tournament titles.
Norwich leads the all-time series 43-25-7, including a split of the season series with Babson winning 5-3 at home and Norwich winning 4-0 at Kreitzberg Arena. Babson beat Norwich 5-0 in the 2016 NEHC Tournament Semifinals in their last playoff meeting.
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.
Babson is led by Jamie Rice, who is in his 15th year at the helm of his alma mater and is the second winningest coach with 244 victories. Rice was named the NEHC Coach of the Year for the third time in his career last week as well.
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. Junior Jordan Hall (Anchorage, Alaska) (9-7-16) scored the game-winning goal vs. Suffolk in the quarterfinals.
In goal, junior Tom Aubrun (Chamonix, France) has compiled a 16-3-3 record with a 1.65 goals against average and a .928 save percentage to go along with six shutouts, which ties the NU single-season record set by Ryan Klingensmith '10. Aubrun was named the NEHC co-Player of the Year and Goalie of the Year.
ABOUT THE BEAVERS: Babson is led by sophomore forward Nick Rosa, who has 13 goals and 15 assists for 28 points and was a NEHC First Team selection.
Freshman Mike Egan (12-14-26) was named the NEHC Rookie of the Year. Fellow rookies Ryan Black (8-15-23) and Matt Wiesner (15-7-22), as well as senior Tommy Munichiello (5-16-21) round out the top-five offensive leaders for the Beavers.
In goal, seniors Bryan Botcher and Matt Pompa have split the time. Botcher is 10-3-1 with a 1.98 GAA and .933 save %. Pompa is 7-3-2 with a 3.21 goals against average and a .905 save percentage.
By the Numbers: (national rank)
Norwich: 3.35 (25th)
Babson: 3.54 (19th)
Norwich: 1.62 (3rd)
Babson: 2.62 (31st)
PENALTY MINUTES PER GAME-
Norwich: 7.2 minutes (83rd)
Babson: 8.4 minutes (79th)
Norwich: 22.8 percent (18th)
Babson: 21.1 percent (24th)
Norwich: 85.0 percent (26th)
Babson: 85.1 percent (25th)