Compiled by D3hockey.com staff
Another Thanksgiving weekend brings yet another PrimeLink Great Northern ShootOut, long-considered the best holiday weekend tournament the Division III men's game has to offer. The tournament has historically brought together some of the most storied programs in DIII hockey and while this year's field lacks the lofty national rankings of many previous editions, it nonetheless remains the most high-profile tournament of the weekend. Hosted by Middlebury at Kenyon Arena, this year's edition again features the tournament's three staples: No. 6 Norwich, Plattsburgh State, and Middlebury, while Lawrence will be this year's fourth participant.
Norwich claimed the tournament title a year ago and it marked the ninth time the Cadets have won the PrimeLink. Norwich edged Middlebury 3-2 in overtime in its Friday opener and then shutout Concordia-Moorhead, 3-0, in the championship game.
When: Friday and Saturday, Nov. 24 and 25
Where: Chip Kenyon Arena; Middlebury, Vt.
Who: No. 6 Norwich, Plattsburgh State, Middlebury, Lawrence
Friday: Norwich v. Plattsburgh St., 4:00 p.m.; Lawrence @ Middlebury, 7:00 p.m.
About the PrimeLink
Without a doubt the PrimeLink has been the premier Thanksgiving weekend tournament in the nation. This year marks the 20th edition and once again features an excellent field. The tournament began in 1998 and currently features Plattsburgh, Norwich and Middlebury as rotating hosts. The fourth team in the tournament has varied since SUNY Potsdam was dropped from the regular rotation in 2007.
Since the inaugural event in 1998, the PrimeLink champion has won the national title five times and qualified for the NCAA tournament all but three. 11 of the 19 PrimeLink champions have made it to the Frozen Four and on seven occassions they have advanced to the national championship game. This year’s field has a cumulative 38 NCAA tournament appearances in the past 17 years and has made 16 trips to the Frozen Four. 2009 marked the first time at least one PrimeLink participant failed to make the Frozen Four, though no participants have managed to advance to the season's final weekend in three of the past four seasons and this year's field boasts the second-lowest national rankings of any field in the tournament's history.
West Region schools rounded out the field from 2007-10, with Saint John’s participating in 2007 and 2010, St. Thomas making the trip in 2008, and Wisconsin-Stout being the guest in 2009. St. Thomas returned to the field in 2012, while in 2013 UW-Superior scored the first win on behalf of the West Region as the Yellowjackets blanked Norwich in the third-place game.
Concordia-Moorhead became the first West Region team to win the tournament in 2014, while Connecticut College rounded out the field in 2015. A year belated, the Cobbers returned in 2016 to defend their title and topped Plattsburgh in the semifinal before falling to Norwich, 3-0, in the championship game.
No. 6 NORWICH CADETS
After opening the season ranked No. 2 it's been a bit of an up and down start for 4-2-1 Norwich, though that's been perhaps a bit expected as they it five of their top six scorers, among others, off last year's title team. After opening the season with wins over Nichols and St. Anselm, the Cadets stumbled at home to Salve Regina but then won three straight NEHC league contests, including an impressive pair of home wins over UMass Boston and Babson. A tie with Hobart and loss to New England College followed, while in their most recent outing the Cadets shut down Southern Maine, 4-0.
Senior forward Kevin Salvucci has paced the offense thus far and leads the team with four goals and five assists for nine points. Freshman forward Coby Downs (4-4-8) is hot on his heels, while sophomore Todd Jackson (3-4-7) has also factored significantly in the offensive attack. The traditionally stingy Norwich defense has been strong again this year and is allowing 1.57 goals per game, which is tied for sixth-best in the country, thanks in large part to the play of senior netminder Braeden Ostepchuk (3-2-1, 1.83, .930) and a defensive corps led by senior captain Alec Brandrup. Ten sophomores and seven freshmen have seen game action so far this year and account for six of Norwich's top seven scorers.
PLATTSBURGH STATE CARDINALS
Plattsburgh opened the year ranked 12th in the D3hockey.com Men's Preseason Top 15 but it's been tough sledding since as it suffered an opening night loss to SUNY Canton and are in the midst of a three-game losing streak, all of which came at the hands of SUNYAC rivals. The 2-4-0 Cardinals lone wins on the season came by way of a two-game sweep of Morrisville on the second weekend of the year. Friday's contest with Norwich will mark Plattsburgh's second game against a ranked opponent this season. In its first it fell 4-1 at Geneseo.
Aside from a 12-goal outburst in one of the wins over Morrisville the typically explosive Cardinals have failed to score more than three goals in a game and have twice been held to a single tally. Freshman forward Rich McCartney has been a bright spot offensively as he leads the team in goals with five and points with seven. Junior forward Cam Owens has seven assists to tie for the team scoring lead, while senior forward Matt Quilty has registered three goals and three assists. The special teams have also been a bright spot as the Plattsburgh power play has clicked at a 29.6% rate while the penalty kill has been successful an impressive 89.3% of the time. A pair of freshmen goaltenders, Jimmy Poreda (1-3-0, 2.81, .888) and Lawson Fenton (1-1-0, 4.07, .862), have both garnered early-season starts.
On the heels of a three-win season, Middlebury's year got off to an 0-2 start last weekend as it was drubbed 9-1 by Colby before falling 2-0 to Bowdoin. Sophomore defenseman Brendan Dawson scored the lone goal of the weekend for the Panthers, who were 0-for-6 on the power play and allowed three power play goals on eight opponents' chances. This year's team features a bit of a new look as, like Norwich, underclassmen feature prominently in the lineup. All told, eight freshman and seven sophomores skated last weekend. In goal, senior Stephen Klein looks to be the guy as he picked up the start in both games a week ago.
Looking to become the second West Region team to bring home a PrimeLink crown, Lawrence heads east on the heels of a 2-4 start that includes NCHA league wins over Aurora and Trine, and losses to Adrian, Lake Forest, UW-Stout and UW-Eau Claire. In just one of the losses, a 6-4 setback to Stout, did the Vikings score more than a single goal, and they've scored just 16 goals through six games, good for 2.67 goals per contest. Friday's meeting with Middlebury will mark the first ever between the two schools, and their Saturday contest will also feature a fresh match-up as the Vikings have also never played Norwich or Plattsburgh.
Junior forward Nick Felan has notched three goals and six assists for nine points to lead the offense thus far, while fellow junior forward Josh Koepplinger has added three goals and four assists for seven points. Senior forward Lane King (2-5-7) also has put up seven points while senior defenseman Austin Frank has tallied four assists to rank fourth on the club in scoring. Sophomore Evan Cline (2-3-0, 3.51, .896) and junior Greg Procopio (0-1-0, 4.47, .839) have both seen action in multiple games this year and backstop a defense that has allowed 3.83 goals per night. The Vikings' special teams have been middling as they hold a 21.4% conversion rate on the power play while the penalty kill has been successful 78.9% of the time.