Men's quarterfinal previews: left half of the bracket

Compiled by D3hockey staff --

A trip to Lake Placid is on the line as just four remain on the left side of the bracket. In the East, league bragging rights are on the line while in the West a heated rivalry is set to write its latest chapter

Out East, top regional seed Salve Regina hosts league rival Nichols in what will be their fourth meeting since February 9. On the line is the first Frozen Four trip for either program, as well as the right to be the first CCC team to advance to the season's final weekend.

In the West, little introduction is needed as Adrian and UW-Stevens Point are set to write their latest chapter, and this year it moves back to Adrian. The Bulldogs look to continue a run at what would be theie first national title, while the Pointers look to make a second straight trip to Lake Placid, the site of their most recent.


NO. 6   SALVE REGINA SEAHAWKS
(20-5-2)

 

 

 

VS

NO. 11   NICHOLS BISON
(17-8-3)

 

Saturday, March 18; 7 p.m. ET
Bradford R. Boss Ice Arena; Kingston, R.I.

 

The Series: Rivals previously in the ECAC Northeast and currently in the CCC, Salve Regina and Nichols have met 39 times with Nichols holding a 21-14-4 advantage in the series.  Saturday's quarterfinal match-up will be the fourth meeting of the season between the two. In the first three, Salve Regina closed out its regular season with a 4-0 and 2-0 home-and-home sweep of Nichols on February 9 and 11, but Nichols answered back in the CCC semifinals as it topped Salve, 5-4.

About Salve Regina: One of the surprise teams in the nation this year, Salve is making its second NCAA tournament appearance, both of which have come since 2016. In their lone prior appearance, the Seahawks fell 7-1 in a first round game at SUNY Geneseo. The top-seeded team in the East Region in 2018, Salve has backed that ranking up against top competition this year as it holds wins over Norwich, UMass Boston, and Adrian, and now faces a familiar foe as it opens in the quarterfinals, just one win away from its first Frozen Four appearance.

At 4.22 goals per game the Salve Regina offense has been clicking all season and ranks as the ninth-most prolfic in the country, and it's been underclassmen that have paced the attack. Sophomore forward Jack Billings (19-26-45) and freshman forward Danny Eruzione (10-22-32) are tops in the club in scoring, while senior Pat Thompson (7-12-19) and Erik Udahl (11-9-20) have also factored prominently. Udahl is also a freshman.

On the back end, the Seahawks rank 10th nationally and have allowed just 2.04 goals per night. Sophomore Vincenzo Renda (2-20-22) and junior Nick Cyr (1-15-16) are among the team leaders in scoring despite being defenseman, but the key cog in the Seahawks' wheel is junior goaltender Blake Wojtala, as the All-American candidate has played in all but 152:07 this year and holds an 18-5-2 record with a 2.03 goals-against-average and .934 save percentage.

About Nichols: After closing out its regular season with the pair of losses to Salve and falling to the five-seed for the CCC postseason, the Bison have been nothing short of perfect as they went on the road to beat Curry, Salve Regina, and University of New England to win their first league playoff title since 2015. The CCC title earned Nichols its spot in the NCAA tournament and it kept things rolling in the first round with a 3-1 win over Fitchburg State. The win was Nichols's first in four NCAA tournament appearances and has the Bison one win away from what would also be their first Frozen Four.

Offense has been a strength for the Bison as their 3.69 goals per game rank 14th in the country. Senior forward Scott Cuthrell (13-31-44) leads the team in overall scoring, and in power play goals with seven, while sophomore forwards J.B. Baker (15-21-36) and Vincent Crivello (15-10-25) are tied for the team lead in goals, with six of Crivello's coming on the power play.

The Bison blueliners have also figured rather prominently on the scoresheet as juniors Ian Spencer (8-15-23), T.J. Roche (5-11-16) and Ben Campbell (5-6-11), along with sophomore David Chevrier (1-10-11), all have cracked double digits. The group, along with senior goaltender Colin Brennan (11-6-3, 2.90, .905) comprise the bulk of a defense that has conceded 2.76 goals per game.

Fast Fact: Salve Regina's selection as a Pool C team was the first NCAA tournament at-large selection for any sport at the school.

Key to the Game: In Nichols's CCC semifinal win at Salve, the Bison jumped on the Seahawks early with a pair of first period goals before adding another at 10:34 of the second to run their lead to 3-0. Salve came storming back to tie it, 4-4, but never was able to claim a lead in the contest. If Nichols can get another early lead it will put itself in position to win -- but if Salve is able to keep things under control early and not fall behind (nevermind put 40-plus shots up like it has in the prior two meetings) it could prove tough for Nichols to keep pace with the Salve offense.

  

NO. 2   ADRIAN BULLDOGS
(24-5-0)

 

 

 

VS

NO. 4   UW-STEVENS POINT POINTERS
(20-5-2)

 

Saturday, March 18; 7 p.m. ET
Arrington Ice Arena; Adrian, Mich.

 

The Series: Saturday's meeting will mark the 16th all-time between these two. Stevens Point holds a narrow 8-6-1 edge in the series, thanks to this year's two regular season meetings in which Stevens Point scored 3-2 and 4-1 home wins on December 12 and 13. The year's NCAA quarterfinal will be the third such meeting in three years between the Bulldogs and Pointers, and the road team has come out on top both previous times as Stevens Point won 5-2 at Adrian in a 2016 quarterfinal while the Bulldogs scored a 6-3 win at Stevens Point in 2017.

About Adrian: Adrian has been near the head of the national class all season and has spent the majority of the second half the year ranked No. 1 in the D3hockey.com Top 15. The Bulldogs' 24 wins are tied with No. 1 St. Norbert for most in the nation, and their five losses do little to tarnish their record as aside from the losses to Stevens Point they fell to St. Norbert twice (both in overtime), and No. 6 Salve Regina. Beyond that, the Bulldogs have been perfect. This year's NCAA tournament appearance is Adrian's sixth consecutive and eighth all-time. The Bulldogs are 4-7-0 in NCAA tournament play and are still in search of their first national title.

The Adrian offense is once again formidable as its 4.45 goals per game rate as fifth-best in the country. Senior forward Taylor McCloy (23-14-37) leads the club in goals and points, and his 23 goals stand as the third-highest total in the nation. Fellow senior forwards Kyle Brothers (11-23-34) and Mathew Thompson (16-17-33), along with junior defenseman Cory Dunn (3-27-30), have also hit the 30-point mark this, and Thompson's eight power play goals are most on the team and help fuel a power play unit that has converted 24.4% of the time.

The Adrian defense also ranks near the top nationally as its 1.69 goals allowed per game is third-lowest in the land. Goaltender Kevin Entmaa (16-3-0, 1.75, .936) has turned in the best season of his career and ranks in the top five nationally in win percentage, goals-against-average, and save percentage. Dillon Kelley has also seen action in goal in ten games this season but at this point it will all but assuredly be Entmaa from here on out, barring injury or catastrophe.

About UW-Stevens Point: The Pointers have also spent the entire season near the top of the rankings as, aside from a few hiccups, they have played like a top team en route to their fifth-straight 20-win season. The NCAA tournament appearance is their fifth in a row and 14th all-time. The Pointers are 26-15-3 in NCAA tournament play and are looking for their sixth national championship.

With nine of its top eleven scorers underclassmen, the Stevens Point offense has fallen a half goal per game from a year ago, though its 3.71 goals per game is still good enough for 14th in the country. Despite all the youth, the Pointers' top two scorers are upperclassmen as junior forward Tanner Karty (22-26-48) and senior forward Willem Nong-Lambert (11-23-34) are the lone skaters to top the 30-point mark. Sophomore Luke McEhlenie (14-10-24) is next to check in and has eight power play goals which lead the team and have fueled a power play that has converted 23.8% of the time.

The Pointers' defense ranks 7th in the nation and has allowed 1.93 goals per game, thanks in large part to a deep, mobile defensive group that was quite young a year ago. The play of goaltender Max Milosek (16-5-3, 1.85, .925) cannot be overlooked either as the senior is in the midst of his best season statistically, and is no stranger to NCAA tournament play as he backstopped the Pointers to the 2016 national championship.

Fast Fact: The Bulldogs and Pointers have combined for seven Frozen Four appearances since 2011, and this year will mark the fifth in a row that at least one of the two has made the season's final weekend.

Key to the Game: Special teams, or the lack thereof. When the Bulldogs and Pointers simply line up and play it's anyone's game but the heated rivalry has produced numerous instances where penalties were abundant and special team play loomed large. The advantage has generally gone to Adrian in these situations and such was the case in last year's NCAA quarterfinal where the Bulldogs went 4-for-8 with the extra man while the Pointers were just 1-for-7, and it proved the determining factor in the game. In our estimation, the more time that gets spent on the power play here the more the edge slides to the Bulldogs, as it not only puts a notoriously dangerous power play on the ice but also negates the slight speed and quickness edge the Pointers claim in five-on-five situations.

 

 ~

 

No contests today.
No contests today.
No contests today.