SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) Men's Ice Hockey Tournament Champions, No. 11/13 Nichols, defeated Fitchburg State, 3-1, in the First Round of the NCAA Division III Men's Ice Hockey Championship on Saturday (March 10) night to earn a spot in the NCAA Quarterfinals next weekend.
The Bison will play CCC rival No. 6/6 Salve Regina at Bradford R. Boss Ice Arena in South Kingstown, R.I. next Saturday, March 17. With an all-CCC matchup in the quarterfinals, the league is guaranteed to have a representative in the NCAA Semifinals in Lake Placid, N.Y. This will mark the first time that a CCC team has reached the national semifinal round in any sport.
The other CCC team playing in the First Round, No. 8/7 University of New England was eliminated from NCAA Championship contention with a 4-2 loss to Colby.
The Nichols-Salve Regina game is one of four quarterfinal contests. The four victors of the quarterfinals head to Lake Placid, N.Y. for the semifinals and championship game. The national semifinals will be played at 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. ET on Friday, March 23 from Herb Brooks Arena at the Olympic Center. The championship will be played on Saturday, March 24 at 7 p.m.
Nichols 3, Fitchburg State 1
HARRISVILLE, R.I. – Senior captain Scott Cuthrell (Waterford, Mich.) scored the game-winning goal early in the second period to help the Nichols College men's ice hockey program score a 3-1 win over Fitchburg State in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday night at Levy Rink.
Sophomore Vincent Crivello (Rosemere, Quebec) scored in the first period and senior Chris Deming (Madison, Ala.) sealed the win with an empty-netter late in the third as the Bison (18-8-3) won the first NCAA Tournament game in program history. With the win, they advance to face Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) Regular-Season Champion Salve Regina next Saturday, March 17 at Boss Ice Arena. The men's hockey team also becomes the fifth at Nichols to win an NCAA Tournament contest, joining men's and women's tennis, men's basketball, and men's soccer.
The Bison outshot the Falcons 16-3 in the opening stanza and led 1-0 following Crivello's 15th tally of the season. Junior defenseman T.J. Roche (Northport, N.Y.) slid the puck from the left circle to Crivello, who was parked at the right post for the one-timer.
Nichols continued to pepper Fitchburg State freshman goalie Brian McGrath (Worcester, Mass.) with shots in the second, but he turned aside all 19 he faced to keep his team in the game. The Falcons (18-7-3) best chance to tie the game came midway through the period when Brandon Ecklund (Fitchburg, Mass.) got behind the Nichols defense and broke in alone on Brennen, but he buried his shot into the chest of the senior netminder.
In the third, junior Ian Spencer (Hawthorne, N.J.) dumped the puck from the red line into the far corner. It was retrieved by classmate Matthew Menta (Lima, Pa.) and centered to Cuthrell, who beat McGrath to the glove side. Less than five minutes later, sophomore Chris Vicario (Cranston, R.I.)banged home a rebound off a point shot by junior Nick DiNicola (Wolcott, Conn.) to cut the NC lead in half at 10:38. With McGrath on the bench for the extra attacker late in the third, Deming intercepted a pass and sent the puck from his own end into the empty net with 58 seconds on the clock.
McGrath finished the night with 39 saves while Brennen was credited with 18 saves to record his 12th win of the season.
Saturday's meeting marked the 60th all-time meeting between these two longstanding Worcester-area rivals and first since March 4, 2009 when they met in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Northeast Semifinals, a 4-2 win by the Bison. While the Falcons continue to lead the series 41-16-3, the Bison have now won the last four and are 6-1-1 in the last seven meetings.
"This was what we expected. Fitchburg works and competes very hard. They are well-coached and were excited and hungry to play with this being their first NCAA Tournament. It came down to execution. It wasn't pretty at times, but the guys found a way. At this time of the year, it's survive and advance and that's what you have to do. We got it done and I'm proud of the guys." – Nichols head coach Parker Burgess
"The team has bought into the fact that it doesn't matter where we play. As long as we play our game and play together, there is nobody in the country that can stop us. We're proving that right now. Our confidence has never been higher and there is no reason for it not to be. We have a 1-0 mentality and that will carry over to next week." –Senior captain Scott Cuthrell, on the team's playoff success
"It was frustrating for sure. This group has faced a lot of adversity since I've been at Nichols, but our mantra has been to stay nice and calm. Our mentality is 'next shift, we're going to get them.'" –Sophomore Vincent Crivello, on outshooting the Falcons but not being able to pad the team's lead
Game recap courtesy of the Nichols Sports Information Department.
Colby 4, University of New England 2
BIDDEFORD, Maine – Kienan Scott (Spokane, Wash.) scored twice and Sean Lawrence (Granite Bay, Calif.) made 33 saves as Colby College rallied from a couple one-goal deficits and picked up a 4-2 result against the University of New England in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Division III Men's Ice Hockey Championship on Saturday night (Mar. 10) at the Harold Alfond Forum.
Unbeaten in their last eight, the Mules (16-10-2) now draw SUNY Geneseo (a winner at Hobart College this evening, also by a 4-2 margin) in the national quarterfinals next Saturday.
UNE's season comes to a close at 20-6-3 overall -- a program-record for wins (by 5). It was Big Blue's first-ever appearance in the NCAA tournament.
The Nor'easters led 1-0 after the 1st period, as the nation's most efficient power-play struck just before a Colby penalty was set to release. Ryan Bloom (Northville, Mich.) got the goal at the 4:00 mark, with assists to Brady Fleurent (Biddeford, Maine) and Tyler Seltenreich (Littleton, Colo.). Shots were 13-4 through 20 minutes of action.
Scott brought Colby even (1-1) early in the 2nd, off a feed from Nick O'Connor (Canton, Mass.), but UNE regained the edge just before the midway point of the frame. Liam Neuman (Newmarket, Ontario) finished off a rebound for the tally; Derek Mecrones (Medford, Mass.) and Chris Jones (Seattle, Wash.) were credited with the assists.
The Mules converted an extra-man opportunity with 12:26 elapsed to knot the score at 2-2, off the stick of Michael Rudolf (Risch, Switzerland) from Cam MacDonald (Westford, Mass.) and Justin Grillo (Rockville Centre, N.Y.). Colby then grabbed its first lead with 4:02 left in the 2nd, as O'Connor again set-up Scott for a short-handed goal.
Joe Schuler (Webster, N.Y.) netted an insurance marker in the heart of the thirds stanza. UNE played most of the last 1:44 with an additional skater, but could not solve Lawrence and the Colby defense.
In goal for the Nor'easters, Tate Sproxton (Surrey, British Columbia) logged 26 stops.
Game recap courtesy of the University of New England Sports Information Department.
2018 NCAA DIVISION III MEN'S ICE HOCKEY TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE
NCAA First Round – Saturday, March 10
NCAA Quarterfinals – Saturday, March 17
No.11/13 Nichols at No. 6/6 Salve Regina, TBA
ABOUT THE COMMONWEALTH COAST CONFERENCE
The Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC), founded in 1984, is an NCAA Division III athletic conference comprised of ten full member and four associate member institutions throughout the New England region. Its membership aims to provide student-athletes with a positive experience in their pursuit of excellence through high academic standards, quality competition, and a meaningful student life. The conference administers championships in 18 intercollegiate sports.