Mass. College Hockey: NCAA D3 First Round Preview

By Matt Noonan 

The first round of the NCAA Division 3 Tournament begins tomorrow and two local squads – Nichols College and Salem State – will be competing for a chance to extend its season to Saturday.

Below is a quick preview of tomorrow’s contests. Make sure to circle back tomorrow evening for scores and highlights.

Nichols College @ SUNY Geneseo (Weds. March 12, 7 p.m.): The Bison ended its regular season slate with a 5-5 tie to Western New England. Yet, they returned to the win column by defeating Curry College in the ECAC Northeast semifinals, 4-3, and Wentworth Institute of Technology in the championship, 3-2. They’ll look to continue their season against a Knights squad that fell to Oswego State in the SUNYAC Championship.

Zachary Vit, who led all skaters with 28 points and 18 goals, while also recording 10 assists, leads the Knights. Vit also netted one-game winner this season, too. The Knights have relied on three goaltenders this season, but specifically Bryan Haude and Nick Horrigan. Both netminders have combined for roughly 1,605 minutes between the pipes, along with 732 saves and 21 wins. Geneseo converted 25 of 135 power plays this season and boasts a .801 penalty kill percentage. Their offense has produced 38 goals in the opening period and recorded 327 shots. They’ve held their opponents to 21 strikes in the opening session.

Sean Fleming leads Nichols in points (33), while Joe Sposit has netted a team-best 13 goals this season. Brett Jackson, who scored the clincher in overtime against the Leopards on Saturday, has recorded 11 goals and 12 assists. Alex Larson has appeared in the team’s cage 23 times this season and owns a 15-6-3 record. He’s turned away 742 shots and is yielding an average of 2.76 goals per game.

A win for the Bison or Knights would secure a quarterfinal matchup against the winner of Norwich University vs. Salem State.

Salem State @ Norwich University (Weds. March 12, 7 p.m.): The Cadets and Vikings will meet for the 48th time on Wednesday evening. Norwich leads Salem State, 31-15-1 in the all-time series.

Salem State earned a spot in the tournament by defeating Plymouth State in the MASCAC Championship last Saturday, 5-1. The Vikings are making their first appearance in the tournament since 1995. Eric Defelice leads the Blue and Orange with 27 points; he’s also potted 11 goals, while Alex Minter has registered 11 goals and 14 assists in 26 contests. Goaltender Ryan Sutliffe posted a 14-5-2 mark between the pipes this season and deflected 458 shots. He logged 1,275 minutes in net and is yielding 2.58 goals per game.

Norwich will be making its fifth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance on Wednesday. The Cadets have lost in the national semifinals the last three seasons. Travis Janke leads the Maroon and Brown with 35 points, while Chris Duszynski finished the season with 16 goals, which is a team-best. Chris Czarnota deflected 193 of 212 shots this season. He appeared in 14 games and owns a .910 save percentage.

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