Men's Hockey: Norwich vs. Univ. of New England - NCAA Quarterfinals Preview

Coby Downs and Brady Fleurent NCAA Quarterfinals preview

THE STORYLINE: No. 4/3-ranked Norwich (21-4-3, 13-4-1 NEHC) begins its quest for its fifth NCAA Division III National Championship on Saturday when it hosts the Univ. of New England at 7 p.m. in Kreitzberg Arena in a quarterfinal matchup.

Norwich claimed its 13th New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) Tournament title with a 2-1 victory over Hobart College on March 2 at Kreitzberg Arena to claim an automatic bid and punch its ticket to its 18th NCAA Tournament appearance.

No. 12/11-ranked UNE (21-6-2, 11-5-1 CCC) is coming off a 2-1 victory over NESCAC champion Trinity (Conn.) in the NCAA First Round this past Saturday in Hartford. The Nor'Easters also beat Salve Regina 6-2 in the CCC Championship game on March 2 for their first-ever CCC Tournament title and automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.

Norwich is red-hot in 2019, going 15-0-2 and riding a 17-game unbeaten streak into Saturday's matchup. Only UW-Stevens Point (28 games) and Geneseo (22 games) have longer unbeaten streaks in Division III.

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 youth/students with 2 and under free.

WHAT'S AT STAKE: A berth in the NCAA Division III Frozen Four is on the line on Saturday. Norwich will be looking to make its 13th Frozen Four appearance and first since 2017 when the Cadets won it all for the fourth time in program history in Utica, N.Y.

UNE is looking to make its first-ever Frozen Four appearance. The Nor'Easters are in the middle of their second NCAA Tournament appearance and have a 1-1 record after falling to Colby 4-2 in the First Round in 2018. For the first time since 2005, the Frozen Four will be held at a campus site this season.

In other quarterfinal matchups, UW-Stevens Point hosts St. Norbert, Oswego State hosts Hobart and Geneseo hosts Manhattanville. St. Norbert beat Augsburg 4-3 in overtime to advance to the quarterfinal round, while Hobart beat Plymouth State 2-1 and Manhattanville downed UMass Boston 6-4 in other first round action.

THE SERIES: Tonight marks the 17th all-time meeting between Norwich and the Univ. of New England in men's ice hockey. The Cadets own a 14-2-0 record vs. the Nor'Easters, however UNE has won the last two meetings, with both wins coming at Kreitzberg Arena as well. The two teams were members of the ECAC East and now NEHC starting in 2009 until UNE left after the 2015-16 season when the CCC started sponsoring men's hockey.

UNE won the last NEHC regular season meeting 4-3 in overtime on Jan. 15, 2016. The Nor'Easters also won the Northfield Savings Bank Holiday Tournament title last season with a 1-0 victory at Kreitzberg Arena.   

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.

UNE is led by fourth-year head coach Kevin Swallow, who has helped build the Nor'Easters into a perennial national contender. Swallow is 70-32-10 in his career at UNE and 125-52-17 overall with his three years at Nichols. Swallow earned two ECAC Northeast Coach of the Year awards at Nichols prior to coming to UNE.

ABOUT THE CADETS: Norwich is led offensively by sophomore forward Felix Brassard (St. Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec), who has 10 goals and 17 assists for 27 points this season. Freshman Brett Ouderkirk (Monkland, Ontario) leads the team with 14 goals to go along with 12 assists for 26 points. Brassard was named to the NEHC Second Team, while Ouderkirk earned NEHC All-Rookie Team honors.

Sophomore Coby Downs (Montclair, Calif.) has five goals and a team-leading 19 assists for 24 points. Junior Jordan Hall (Anchorage, Alaska) (11-7-18) scored the game-winning goal vs. Suffolk in the quarterfinals and sealed the Babson victory with an empty-net goal late in the third period.

Freshmen defenseman Gabriel Chicoine (St. Dominique, Quebec) (6-15-21) and forward Maxime Borduas (St. Cesaire, Quebec) (7-13-20) round out the top offensive leaders for the Cadets. Chicoine earned NEHC All-Rookie and Third Team honors.

In goal, junior Tom Aubrun (Chamonix, France) has compiled a 18-3-3 record with a 1.68 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 NOR'EASTERS: UNE features one of the nation's top offenses, led by the dynamic duo of senior Brady Fleurent and junior Ryan Bloom. The Nor'Easters rank third in the nation, averaging 4.69 goals per game.

Fleurent has 13 goals and 35 assists for 48 points to rank second in all of NCAA Division III in total points. Bloom's 22 goals rank tied for third in the nation and he has 21 assists for 43 points.

Junior defenseman Dimitris Jones has three goals and 24 assists for 27 points to rank among the nation's leaders in points by blue liners. Fleurent was named the CCC Player of the Year, while Bloom and Jones also earned CCC First Team honors.

Sophomores Tyler Seltenreich (14-11-25) and Brett Mecrones (12-10-22) round out the top-five offensive leaders for UNE.

In goal, sophomore Ben Churchfield has compiled a 16-5-2 record and a 2.10 goals against average to go along with a .924 save percentage. Churchfield made 42 saves last season vs. Norwich to shutout the Cadets in the NSB Holiday Tournament Championship and earn MVP honors.

By the Numbers: (national rank)

SCORING OFFENSE-
Norwich: 3.36 (23rd)
UNE:  4.69 (3rd)

SCORING DEFENSE-
Norwich: 1.64 (3rd)
UNE:  2.14 (16th)

PENALTY MINUTES PER GAME-
Norwich: 7.1 minutes (83rd)
UNE: 14.6 minutes (30th)

POWER PLAY-
Norwich: 22.7 percent (16th)
UNE: 27.5 percent (2nd)

PENALTY KILL-
Norwich: 83.5 percent (34th)
UNE: 87.3 percent (15th)