Men's Hockey: Norwich vs. Geneseo - NCAA Semifinals Preview

NCAA Semifinals Preview Gabriel Chicoine and Conlan Keenan

THE STORYLINE: No. 4/3-ranked Norwich (22-4-3, 13-4-1 NEHC) continues its quest for its fifth NCAA Division III National Championship on Friday when it travels to Stevens Point, Wis. to compete in the 2019 NCAA Division III Men's Ice Hockey Championship weekend. The Cadets will take on SUNY Geneseo at 4 p.m. Eastern/3 p.m. Central on Friday, March 22 at K.B. Willett Arena.

Norwich is making its 13th NCAA Division III Frozen Four appearance following a 2-1 overtime victory over the Univ. of New England this past Saturday at Kreitzberg Arena in the NCAA Quarterfinals.  The Cadets won their 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. 2/2 SUNY Geneseo (25-1-2, 13-1-2 SUNYAC) is coming off an 8-2 victory over Manhattanville in the NCAA Quarterfinal round this past weekend. The Knights won the SUNYAC title for the sixth time in program history and second straight year with a 4-3 win over Oswego State.

Norwich is red-hot in 2019, going 16-0-2 and riding an 18-game unbeaten streak into Friday's matchup. Only UW-Stevens Point (29 games) and Geneseo (23 games) have longer unbeaten streaks in Division III. The Pointers are looking to become the first team in NCAA Division IIII history to go undefeated in an entire season. Geneseo is 22-0-1 in its last 23 games, highlighted by a 17-game winning streak that ended with a 4-4 tie at Oswego on Feb. 9.

You can watch live video and view live stats for Friday's game at https://www.ncaa.com/game/icehockey-men/d3/2019/03/22/norwich-suny-geneseo. Tickets are available at tickets.uwsp.edu. Admission prices are $10 for each of the national semifinals with a separate admission for each game. Norwich does not have a ticket allotment for the second semifinal between UW-Stevens Point and Hobart. If Norwich were to advance to the national championship game, there will be a ticket allotment allocated to NU fans to purchase. Tickets for the finals will be $12.  

WHAT'S AT STAKE: A berth in the NCAA Division III National Championship is on the line on Friday. Norwich will be looking to make its sixth national championship game appearance and first since 2017 when the Cadets won it all for the fourth time in program history in Utica, N.Y. Norwich is 5-7 all-time in the NCAA semifinals and 4-1 all-time in the championship game.

Geneseo is making its third trip to the Frozen Four in the last six seasons. The Knights have lost in the semifinals in each of their previous two trips. Geneseo lost 5-1 to UW-Stevens Point in 2016 in Lake Placid, N.Y. and also lost 6-2 to St. Norbert in 2014 in Lewiston, Maine in their two previous semifinal appearances.

In the other semifinal matchup, host UW-Stevens Point takes on Hobart College at 8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central. UW-Stevens Point shutout defending national champion St. Norbert 3-0 in the quarterfinal round, while Hobart beat Oswego State 3-2 on the road. Hobart also beat Plymouth State 2-1 in the First Round, becoming the only team to win two NCAA Tournament games to get to the Frozen Four in this year's field.

THE SERIES: Friday will mark just the second all-time meeting between Norwich and Geneseo in men's ice hockey. Geneseo won the lone meeting in 2014 with a 3-2 win in the NCAA Quarterfinals at home at the Ira S. Wilson Arena. Norwich went up 2-0 in the game, only to have Geneseo come storming back behind a natural hat trick from Tyler Brickler. Current NU assistant coaches Chris Czarnota '14 and Bryce Currier '15 played in that game. Czarnota started in goal and Currier started on defense.

Norwich and Geneseo have played two common opponents this season in Neumann and Plattsburgh State. Norwich beat Neumann 4-1 and Plattsburgh 3-0, while Geneseo beat Neumann 8-0 and split their two meetings with Plattsburgh (L, 3-2 and W, 2-0).

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.

Geneseo is led by Chris Schultz, who is in his 13th season at the helm of the Knights' men's hockey program. He is a two-time Ed Jeremiah Award winner as the Division III National Coach of the Year in 2014 and 2016. In 12 seasons leading his alma mater, he has compiled a 214-114-25 record.

ABOUT THE CADETS: Norwich is led offensively by sophomore forward Felix Brassard (St. Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec), who has 11 goals and 17 assists for 28 points this season. Brassard scored the game-winning goal just 2:46 into overtime to lift Norwich to the 2-1 win over Univ. of New England in the quarterfinals.

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 six goals and a team-leading 19 assists for 25 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. He also scored the first goal in Norwich's 2-1 win over Hobart in the NEHC finals.

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 19-3-3 record with a 1.65 goals against average and a .930 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 KNIGHTS: For the second week in a row Norwich will take on one of the nation's top offenses after playing Univ. of New England, who ranked third last week and now playing Geneseo, who has the top ranked offense in NCAA Division III hockey, averaging 5.00 goals per game. The Knights also feature the nation's top power play at 29.0 percent and have the No. 1 defense, giving up just 1.21 goals per game.

Junior Andrew Romano leads the nation in total points with 10 goals and 42 assists for 52 points. Classmate Conlan Keenan has 23 goals and 25 assists for 48 points. Romano has 115 career points, while Keenan has 122 career points. Keenan was named the Herb Hammond SUNYAC Men's Ice Hockey Player of the Year.

Senior defenseman Mitch Ferguson (9-27-36) is the top-scoring defenseman in Division III hockey. Juniors David Szmyd (12-21-33) and Tyson Empey (14-17-31) each have double digit goals and over 30 points on the season, while senior defenseman Duggie Lagrone (7-20-27) rounds out the top-six offensive leaders for Geneseo.

In goal, senior Devin McDonald has been setting records all season for Geneseo. He has compiled a 23-1-2 record with a 1.15 goals against average and a .943 save percentage. His 12 shutouts are the most in a single season in NCAA Division III history. McDonald was named the SUNYAC Goalie of the Year.

Keenan, Lagrone and McDonald were named to the SUNYAC All-Conference First Team; while Ferguson, Romano and Empey earned SUNYAC Second Team honors.

By the Numbers: (national rank)

SCORING OFFENSE-
Norwich: 3.31 (24th)
Geneseo:  5.00 (1st)

SCORING DEFENSE-
Norwich: 1.62 (3rd)
Geneseo:  1.21 (1st)

PENALTY MINUTES PER GAME-
Norwich: 6.8 minutes (83rd)
Geneseo: 10.1 minutes (71st)

POWER PLAY-
Norwich: 22.4 percent (18th)
Geneseo: 29.0 percent (1st)

PENALTY KILL-
Norwich: 83.5 percent (33rd)
Geneseo: 89.3 percent (7th)