By Matt Noonan
The NCAA Division 3 Tournament commences on Wednesday with 30 teams vying for the national championship. Massachusetts will have six teams contending for the crown, and below is a quick preview of each local first round contest.
Colorado College @ Amherst College: The Lord Jeffs never gave up against the Jumbos yesterday, but did fall short in their first New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Championship appearance. Amherst, which will be making its second trip to NCAA Tournament, will look to rebound on Wednesday when they welcome the Tigers to campus.
The Lord Jeffs, who’re one win shy of matching their program’s all-time win mark (15), earned 14 victories this season. They defeated Endicott, Western New England and Wesleyan (twice), and Bowdoin in the conference tournament quarterfinals.
Head coach John Thompson will rely on his senior class – his first graduating class – to guide the Lord Jeffs to their third tournament win (The Jeffs are 2-1 all-time in NCAA Tournament play). Quinn Moroney leads the Purple and White with 100 points on 75 helpers and 25 goals, while Kane Haffey and Devin Acton have combined for 103 tallies. Greg Majno, the team’s goaltender and Acton’s high school teammate from Lincoln-Sudbury, will be counted on to stop the Colorado attack, which compiled 174 strikes in 15 games this season (that’s 11.60 goals per game).
Western New England @ Springfield College: Earlier this season, the Pride needed a fourth quarter rally to defeat their cross-town rival, 9-7. Springfield head coach Keith Bugbee told NoontimeSports.com that his team regrouped in the second half, which was a big reason why they were victorious.
Since their last meeting, both teams have improved their play and managed to acquire conference tournament championship hardware.
Western New England will look for its defense, including their backstop Brandon Body, to challenge the Springfield attack. Against the Gulls of Endicott on Saturday, the Golden Bears defense managed to shutdown their opponent’s offense and yielded just two second half markers. The Golden Bears offense, however, clicked into gear in the third quarter and was led by Colton Craig, who finished the contest with five strikes. Craig has recorded 41 points this season on 35 goals and six helpers, while Adam Knapton leads the Blue and Gold in points (64), goals (45) and assists (19).
Similar to the Golden Bears, the Pride relies on its upperclassmen to carry both their offense and defense. Springfield’s Bryce Serriello leads the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) in goals with 40, while Ryan Murphy is fourth with 32 strikes. Connor Nash, Springfield’s goaltender, is third in saves (163) and fourth in save percentage (57.4).
Both teams can go on runs, so expect defense to be the key component in this particular matchup.
Keene State @ Endicott College: Similar to the Lord Jeffs, the Gulls received an at-large bid to this year’s tournament and will open play against an Owls squads that captured the Little East Conference crown.
The Gulls, who finished with 14 wins, managed to earn a 6-4 halftime lead on Saturday against the Golden Bears before their opponent used a 9-2 second half run to claim the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) championship. So, expect Saturday’s contest to be motivation for head coach Sean Quirk’s Gulls.
Endicott finished its regular season conference slate undefeated, as well as earned impressive non-conference wins over Connecticut College, Eastern Connecticut State, Middlebury, Bowdoin and Stevens. The Gulls are led by Harrison Cotter, who recorded a career-high 68 points on 55 goals and 13 assists, and goaltender Cameron Bell, who posted an 8.07 goals against average with 178 saves.
The Gulls have appeared in seven NCAA Tournaments. They’ve faced-off against Keene State four times in program-history, winning three meetings, including an 11-10 tournament win against the Owls in 2005. Keene State enters their first round matchup on a nine-game winning streak.
Emmanuel College @ Tufts University: It’ll be offense vs. defense in this particular matchup, as the Saints will rely on its back line and goaltender Austin Lauzier to stop the nation’s top scoring offense (Tufts leads the nation with 19.00 goals per game, according to NCAA.com).
Emmanuel, who will be making its first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament, captured its initial Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) conference and regular season crowns with wins over Lassell College (regular season de-facto championship) and Becker College (tournament final). The Saints have received contributions from every player on their roster, but are led by Chris Curtis, who leads the Blue and Gold in points (45). Curtis and Kaile Maclean-Daley have netted 31 goals, respectively, and Ryan Sabuda leads the unit in helpers with 21.
Similar to Emmanuel, Tufts has received contributions from everyone on their roster, but have been paced by John Uppgren, who leads the Powder Blue and White with 105 points on 54 goals and 51 assists. Beau Wood leads the unit with 55 goals, while Cole Bailey is first in helpers with 55.
Tufts will be making its seventh appearance in the NCAA Tournament, its sixth straight, according to their athletic department’s website. The Jumbos are 16-2 overall and have won one national title, which occurred in 2010.