BY: COLLIN SCHUCK
March Madness is one of the most popular times of the year for collegiate sports, and while that NCAA tournament is lining up with conference tournaments, hockey is on the same calendar pattern with their own March bracketing. In this special 20th edition of the IceRays Alumni Report, we hone in on all NCAA Division I teams lining up to play in conference tournaments, the NCAA Division III sides punching their tickets to the big dance, and those that fell just a touch short in conference tournament play.
We’ll go through all alumni squads in alphabetical order by conference, and thus we begin in the American Hockey Association (AHA). Mercyhurst University has placed a good campaign this season, finishing with a 16-14-4 overall record and fifth in the AHA Standings. One season removed from finishing first in the conference, the Lakers earned an automatic bid into the quarterfinals to play fourth-seeded Bentley College this weekend in a best-of-three series. Mychal Monteith (’10-‘12) hopes to help his team on the defensive-side of the ice, recording one goal and one assist through 13 games.
With the Big Ten Conference holding one more weekend of games, we’ll skip down to the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) where two alumni teams came up short in the first found of their conference tournament. Clarkson University came close to coming away with the series but fell in two of three games against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) after the Golden Knights forced a decisive game three. Alumni defenseman Perry D’Arrisso (’11-’13) played in all three games for Clarkson though did not factor into the scoreline during the weekend. That rounds off his sophomore campaign with two assists through 28 games with six penalty minutes and a -4 rating.
A similar fate befell the Cornell Big Red, who was swept by reigning NCAA Division I National Champion Union College last weekend. Goaltender Hayden Stewart (’12-’13) made his ECAC Tournament debut and appeared in 29:09 minutes and stopped seven of ten shots against. He came in relief during the third period of Friday’s 4-2 loss to Union, saving both shots while being pulled after the first period of Saturday’s 7-0 loss and allowing three goals on eight shots. That closes Stewart’s freshman season, earning a 2-5-1 record with a 2.13 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage in 11 games.
An upset in the Hockey East (HE) knocked off sixth-seeded Northeastern University against 11th-seeded Merrimack College last weekend in the opening round of the Hockey East Tournament. Defenseman Colton Saucerman (’10-’11) started in both overtime thrillers though couldn’t bring any magic on the power play to stave off the Warriors. Friday’s 3-2 overtime loss forced Northeastern on their heels, and a 2-1 double overtime loss sealed the upset. Saucerman finishes his junior campaign with seven goals and eight assists through 32 games with 40 penalty minutes and a -6 rating. All seven goals came on the power play this season.
The National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) begins the quarterfinal round leading to the Frozen Faceoff next weekend from Minneapolis, Minn., and the seventh-ranked University of Denver sets up 6th-ranked University of Minnesota Duluth in a best-of-three series. The two sides are seeded fourth and fifth, respectively, in the NCHC with the Pioneers completing their 2014-15 campaign with a 20-12-2 overall record. Sophomore Emil Romig (’12-’13) finished off the regular season with two points over his last four games to bump up to three goals and three assists through 26 games this season.
Only one of two teams in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) entered into the conference tournament, and the University of Alabama Huntsville will carry that weight into the weekend for their best-of-three series against fourth-ranked Michigan Tech. The University of Alaska Fairbanks is ineligible for the 2015 WCHA Playoffs, so the Chargers become the de facto seven-seed with a 8-24-4 overall record. The regular season ended well for defenseman Frank Misuraca (’11-’12) for his junior year, also recording two points over his last four games. He owns six goals and six assists through 36 games ahead of the tall task of taking down Michigan Tech.
The field is set for the 2015 NCAA Division III Ice Hockey Championship, and three alumni teams will be among the 11 squads vying for the 2015 National Championship. Out of the ECAC East comes the top-ranked Norwich University Cadets, who earned their automatic bid by defeating Babson College in overtime 3-2 on Mar. 7. The Cadets swept all three games played over the end of February, reaching the ECAC East Finals with a 4-0 blanking of Southern Maine and a 2-1 edging of Castleton College. Forward Dmitry Ermakov (’11-’12) notched his first career goal in that semifinal against Castleton on a breakaway feed from defenseman Bryce Currier. The ECAC East Championship is their fourth in the last six years and avenges a two-year drought at the hands of Babson.
Plymouth State University represents the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) thanks to their second tournament title in a 6-2 win over Salem State University on Mar. 7 from Hanaway Rink. Forward Ian McGilvrey (’12-‘13) scored the lone point for IceRays alumni in the contest with an even-strength goal in the third period to push the Panthers’ lead up to 5-2. In the semifinal round against Westfield State, forward Mike Economos (’12-‘13) contributed with an assist on the Panthers’ third goal of the night in their 3-0 blanking of the Owls. Plymouth State makes it a full sweep of the MASCAC this season with the regular season and tournament crowns.
The last of the three teams has been one of the highest-ranked teams this season, but the SUNY Oswego Lakers fell short of the SUNYAC Championship in a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the now third-ranked SUNY Plattsburgh thanks to a final tally with just 2:33 left in the third period. What got them to the decisive game was solely on the wings of former forward Brandon Adams (’11-’12), who scored both goals in the Lakers’ 2-0 shutout over Buffalo State. His opening goal in the first period came on a second-chance play at 5:43, and he followed that with a shot from the blue line at 5:18 of the second period. Adams was kept off the scoreline in the SUNYAC Championship, but their semifinal win and national rankings gave them an at-large bid into the tournament.
The opening round will pit two of the aforementioned teams against one another. In just their second appearance in the national tournament, Plymouth State will take on three-time national champion Norwich. The only other attempt the Panthers made in the tournament came in 2012 in a 3-1 loss to Wentworth Institute of Technology. On the other side, Norwich last laid claim to the championship in 2010 and is making their 16th appearance in the big dance. Four alumni skaters will skate on the same ice on Saturday night: Ermakov for Norwich, and the trio of Economos, McGilvrey, and defenseman Tommy Dowell (’10-’11).
Adams and SUNY Oswego are making their 14th appearance in the NCAA Division III Tournament as they take on fellow at-large team Hobart College out of the ECAC West on Saturday night. The Statesmen are making their first appearance since 2009 and their fifth overall in program history while finishing the season ranked 10th nationally. The Lakers hold the historic edge with their only national title in 2007 and are only one of four teams to previously win the title in this year’s field.
Not all NCAA Division III alumni teams were successful around the country, most of who were quelled in conference tournament action. The ECAC Northeast saw two teams head into the quarterfinal round on Feb. 28. In the first of two games, Wentworth Institute of Technology did not have the luck they needed, dropping 8-4 to Curry College. Alums Kevin Crowe (’10-’11) and Jake Diamond (’10-’11) both took part in the game, and Crowe was able to notch on the scoreline with a power play assist in the first period. The game ends the season for both Crowe and Diamond as well as marks the last game for Crowe in his collegiate career. He finishes his career with 32 goals and 28 assists for 60 points through 95 collegiate appearances. Diamond has one year of eligibility left.
In the second game of the weekend, Johnson & Wales University faired a bit better, blanking Suffolk College 5-0 in the quarterfinals. All five goals were scored in the first and third periods, and Josh Obregon (’10-’12) factored into the game’s opening goal at 8:16 of the opening frame with a secondary assist on Ben Brouillard’s tally for the second-straight game. The win placed them into the ECAC Northeast Semifinals against Salve Regina on Mar. 4, but that’s where their luck would run out and their season resided. The Seahawks took down the Wildcats 9-3 in the semifinals. Obregon finished his junior season
The ECAC West sent Hobart College to the big dance, but their opponent in the conference title game? Neumann University. The Knights came up short by one goal from a berth in the NCAA tournament, falling 2-1 in overtime to the Statesmen. Following a strong 8-4 semifinal round win over Nazareth College, the Knights pushed back to tie the game, 1-1, in the second period and lasted 11:31 into overtime against one of the top-10 teams in the nation but could not prevail. That ends the junior season for Casey Rogers (’10-’11), owning two goals and eight assists for ten points.
Plymouth State wasn’t the only team in the MASCAC Tournament at the turn of March. One of two alumni combatants, the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, stumbled in the semifinals to Salem State 4-0 to finish out their 2014-15 campaign. After taking down Fitchburg State 5-4 in the previous weekend, three third period goals sunk the Corsairs and closed the book on a 8-16-3 season. Forward Brandon Berkley (’12-’14) saw a decent number of games in his first season with the Lancers, playing in 19 contests while recording two goals and two assists for four points.
The other, Worcester State University, did not fair well in the MASCAC Quarterfinal against Westfield State, falling 6-3 in the opening round and falling just shy of a ten-win season. Forward Michael Dery (’11-’12) saw no points in that game, thus his sophomore season came to an end. With two goals and three assists for five points through 18 games, he set a new career-high in assists while sharing his career-high in points with his freshman season total.
Both teams out of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) fell short of bids into the NCAA tournament, and the favorite to get through the conference playoff, St. Thomas University, couldn’t overcome the momentum built by Hamline from the quarterfinal round and fell 6-3 in the process. After a first-round bye, the Tommies fell apart in the final five minutes of the game, giving up three-straight goals to finish off the night. Johnny Roisum (’12-’13) did not appear in the contest, and his season ends with one goal and seven assists for eight points through 11 games.
The University of Concordia-Moorhead also fell short of a shot at the MIAC Championship game, falling to St. Mary’s of Minn. 4-3 in double overtime. Forward Jon Grebosky (’11-’13) has been strong for the Cobbers all season long, and his production came with him in the final period, netting the game-tying goal to push the Cobbers into overtime. After 21:05 minutes of bonus hockey, Saint Mary’s put the game away early in the second overtime. Grebosky closes his first collegiate season with 13 goals and seven assists for 20 points while finishing fourth on the team in scoring.
Tommy Telesca (’12-’13) and the SUNY Potsdam Bears made their way into the SUNYAC Tournament on a four-game winning streak including taking down the formerly top-ranked Oswego Lakers in the regular season finale. They took on Buffalo State in the quarterfinal round and didn’t have enough in the tank during their 6-2 defeat. Telesca’s second season with the Bears ended without a point in the conference tournament, but he improved on his freshman season with five goals and four assists through 19 games.
The University of Wisconsin-River Falls took care of business in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) Tournament and claimed the Commissioner’s Cup on Mar. 7, taking down the WIAC Champions, UW-Stevens Point, 3-1 in the deciding game. Their appearance came after tying UW-Eau Claire on aggregate in the semifinals, forcing a mini-game on Feb. 28 and just nudging by UW-Eau Claire 2-1. A pair of former IceRays defensemen closed out their seasons, with freshman Caleb O’Brien (’12-’14) playing 16 games in his first season and sophomore Andrew Paras (’12-’13) appearing in six games.
Read the IceRays Alumni Report every Tuesday on www.GoIceRays.com and hear the audio version on the IceRays Broadcast Network.
Collin Schuck is the Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations for the Corpus Christi IceRays. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @CollinDSchuck.