PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State College ice hockey team will face a familiar foe when the Eastern College Athletic Conference Northeast Division play-offs begin Wednesday (Mar. 3).
The Panthers finished seventh in the Northeast Division, qualifying for the post-season tournament for the second straight year and seventh time overall. PSC will travel to second-seeded Fitchburg State on Wednesday for a 7:30 p.m. contest at the Wallace Civic Center against the Northeast Division's regular season co-champions.
The Northeast semi-finals are slated for Saturday (Mar. 6), with the championship contest scheduled for Wednesday (Mar. 10). All games are set up with the lower-seeded team playing at the higher-seeded team. The other quarterfinal games Wednesday include No. 8 Johnson & Wales at No. 1 UMass Dartmouth, No. 6 New Hampshire College at No. 3 Wentworth, and No. 5 Tufts at No. 4 St. Michael's.
"I'm proud of the way our guys played this year," said PSC first-year head coach Mike Bonelli. "They've shown they're capable of playing with the top level teams in this league. Now we want to take the next step and improve on last year's disappointing first-round loss."
Plymouth State was the No. 8 seed in last year's play-offs, and lost at top-seeded Fitchburg, 11-2. The Falcons handed Plymouth State a 4-2 defeat in the only meeting this season at Waterville Valley on Feb. 13.
PSC wrapped up the regular season with a 13-11-0 overall record, and a 10-7-0 league mark. The Panthers placed seventh of the 18 teams after being picked to finish 10th in the coaches' pre-season poll.
Fitchburg State, 17-5-3 overall, shared the Northeast regular season title this season with UMass Dartmouth, both teams going 14-1-2 in league games. The Falcons won ECAC North-Central-South tournament titles in 1994 and 1996, and captured ECAC North crowns in 1988, 1990, 1991, and 1992.
Wednesday will be PSC's seventh trip to the post-season, all ECAC appearances. The Panthers defeated St. Michael's and Fitchburg in their debut in 1986, but lost in the finals to Curry. They were a first-round victim of Southeastern Massachusetts (now UMass Dartmouth) in 1988. PSC knocked off Assumption in the first round in 1991, but lost in the semi-finals to Fitchburg. In 1993, Assumption sent PSC home with a first round loss, but the Panthers came back in 1994 to defeat Skidmore in the quarterfinals before falling to Fitchburg in the semis.
This year's Panther team features the strong goaltending of freshman Larry Forgue (Nashua, NH), who is the Northeast Division leader in saves percentage (.922) and runner-up in goals against average (2.37). The PSC defense is led by senior All-League blue-liner Steve Colonna (Falmouth, MA), and the top scoring line includes three juniors - Eric Ryan (North Chelmsford, MA), Rich Vega (New Milford, CT), and Kevin Creighton (Falmouth, MA).
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