By Mike Zhe
The wheat from the chaff, the contenders from the pretenders … pick your idiom, we’re down to the semifinals in New England’s four Division 3 leagues and closing in on crowning conference champions.
Semifinal games are Tuesday in the MASCAC, Wednesday in the ECAC Northeast, Friday in the ECAC East and Saturday in the NESCAC. By Sunday, we’ll know who will be representing those leagues in the NCAA tournament.
Let’s take a look:
ECAC East (at Norwich Friday/Saturday)
No. 1 Norwich vs. No. 4 Castleton, 4 p.m.
No. 2 UMass-Boston vs. No. 3 Babson, 7 p.m.
The late game figures to be the good one here, with two of the nation’s best teams over the second half trying to wedge their way into the conference championship game.
UMB (19-5-2) has gotten huge years from Travis Daniel (12-28-40) and Mike DeGrazia (17-17-34), and also from its crop of 13 freshmen. Its second line of Peter MacIntyre (Norfolk, Mass.), Kit Sitterley and Frankie DeAugustine has been very productive, while Max Reavis is centering the first line.
“We joke that they’ll probably be the All-Rookie team by themselves,” said junior defenseman Rob Florentino (West Roxbury, Mass.). “We’re deep in terms of freshmen but they don’t play like it.”
Babson (15-6-5) doesn’t figure to be intimidated by the setting. It won at Norwich, 4-1, back in January, and tied the Cadets 2-2 earlier this month.
It took 16 saves from Chris Czarnota (Wakefield, Mass.), and goals from Travis Janke and Shane Gorman for Norwich (22-2-1) to shed eighth-seeded Southern Maine, 2-0, in its quarterfinal. Now it faces Castleton (15-9-2), a team it handled, 6-1, earlier this month.
NESCAC (at Bowdoin Saturday/Sunday)
No. 3 Trinity vs. No. 2 Williams, 1 p.m.
No. 5 Middlebury at No. 1 Bowdoin, 4 p.m.
The host Polar Bears (20-3-2) are scoring nearly a goal more a game than anyone else in the league, at 4.40 behind players like Ollie Koo (Greenwich, Conn.) and Harry Matheson.
Williams (16-6-3) has been the stingiest team in the NESCAC, allowing just 2.00 a game in front of stellar goalie Sean Dougherty.
But it’s foolish to just pencil those two teams into the final. Not with the way Trinity (15-6-3) and Middlebury (13-10-2) have been playing.
Trinity is 1-0-1 against Williams this year while Bowdoin had the 1-0-1 regular-season advantage on Middlebury.
MASCAC (Tuesday/Saturday at higher seeds)
No. 5 Fitchburg State at No. 1 Plymouth State, 6 p.m.
No. 3 Salem State at No. 2 UMass-Dartmouth, 7:30 p.m.
Like last year, the league belongs to Plymouth until someone takes it from them. The Panthers (18-6-1) hosted Fitchburg (11-3-2) one week ago to close out the regular season and won, 5-1.
But the Falcons have been pretty good down the stretch, winning five of eight. Joseph Caveney (Fitchburg, Mass.) leads Division 3 in assists (30) and points (46).
“Our season’s been a roller-coaster,” said Fitchburg State coach Dean Fuller. “We’ve played some real good hockey and we’ve had some games where we haven’t played as well.”
The other semifinal pits a pair of longtime rivals. The Corsairs (10-7-7) and Vikings (14-11-1) have played three times this year, each winning one with one tie.
ECAC Northeast (at higher seeds Wednesday/Saturday)
No. 5 Salve Regina at No. 2 Nichols, 7:30 p.m.
No. 6 Johnson & Wales at No. 1 Wentworth, 8:15 p.m.
Nichols (16-8-1) and defending champion Wentworth (14-8-3) have established themselves as the clear top two teams in the league, and it would be surprising to see either lose its semifinal.
Wentworth is led by senior defenseman Shaun Jameson, the Player of the Year in the conference and one of the nations most productive blueliners.
Freshman Tyler Beasley (14-14-28) has had a great first season for the Bison, who have won six of eight, and the one loss in that span was in overtime at Curry, 2-1.
New England Division 3 Power
1. Norwich (22-2-1, 16-1-1 ECAC East)
Senior forward Colin Mulvey (Worcester, Mass.) was named ECAC East Player of the Year last week.
2. Bowdoin (20-3-2, 13-3-2 NESCAC)
School will host the 2014 Division 3 Frozen Four, it was announced last week.
3. Williams (16-6-3, 12-4-2 NESCAC)
Nick Anderson had a goal and an assist as Ephmen were able to escape improved Colby in its conference quarterfinal, 2-1.
4. UMass-Boston (19-5-2, 11-5-2 ECAC East)
Beacons avoided the quarterfinal stumbling block with a 5-2 win over the University of New England.
5. Trinity (15-6-3, 11-4-3 NESCAC)
Freshman John Hawkrigg’s second goal of the game was the overtime game-winner as Bantams outlasted Wesleyan in quarterfinals, 5-4.
6. Babson (15-6-5, 10-5-3 ECAC East)
Troy Starrett (Bellingham, Mass.) had two goals and an assist as Beavers routed Skidmore, 7-1, in their league quarterfinal.
7. Plymouth State (17-6-1, 13-3-1 MASCAC)
Home cooking? You bet. Panthers are 11-1 at Hanaway Rink, just 7-5-1 away from it.
8. Wentworth (14-8-3, 10-2-2 ECAC Northeast)
Freshman goalie Joel Miller is 11-2-2 with a 1.94 goals-against average this season.
9. Middlebury (13-10-2, 11-5-2 MASCAC)
Two goals by Louis Belisle were the difference as Panthers went on the road for league quarterfinals and beat Amherst, 4-3.
10. Amherst (15-7-3, 11-5-2 NESCAC)
Andrew Kurlandski’s two late goals weren’t enough for Lord Jeffs in season-ending, 4-3 loss to Middlebury.