PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Plymouth State University will have a home men's ice hockey playoff game for the first time in 12 years this Saturday when the Panthers host Fitchburg State College in an ECAC Northeast Conference First Round game at Waterville Valley Ice Arena. The opening face-off will be at 7:30 p.m. and admission to the game is free.
PSU earned the fourth seed in the tournament after finishing the regular season with a 12-9-2 overall record and a 9-5-1 conference mark. Plymouth State has won four straight and six of its last seven under head coach Brett Tryder to carry momentum into the playoffs. The 12 wins this season is the most since the 1998-99 team finished with a 13-12-0 record.
The Panthers will meet a Fitchburg State squad the finished fifth in the Northeast with an 8-6-1 conference mark, 12-11-1 overall. PSU and FSC split a pair of games this season, the Falcons winning the championship game of the season-opening Paine Webber Classic at Assumption on Nov. 13th (7-4), and the Panthers winning the conference match-up on Feb. 12th at Waterville Valley, 5-3.
"Getting home ice in the first round of the playoffs was one of our primary goals at the beginning of the season," said Tryder. "We're proud of what we've accomplished during the regular season. Now anything can happen, so we'll just go out, work hard, and give our best effort. It should be fun."
The Panthers are led by freshman goaltender Karl Helgesson (Lerum, Sweden), who leads the league in saves percentage (.910) and ranked third in goals against average (2.69). Senior Max Wernert (Greenwich, Conn.) and juniors Nick DeBaggis (Topsfield, Mass.) and Matt Withers (Laconia, N.H.) anchor a solid Panther defense. The offense is led by a trio of juniors - Dennis Kane (Westford, Mass.), Rory Nickerson (West Chatham, Mass.) and Paul Feeney (Lowell, Mass.), and a pair of freshmen - Chris Cadieux (Nashua, N.H.) and Deni Bojadzic (Gothenburg, Sweden).
The Panthers are making their first ECAC post-season appearance since 2002, and the ninth visit to the ECAC play-offs since 1986. Plymouth State advanced to the finals in its first appearance in 1986, and made the semifinals in 1991 and 1994. PSU was knocked out of the tournament in the first round in 1988, 1993, 1998, 1999 and 2002.
Plymouth State's most common play-off opponent has been Fitchburg State, as there have been five post-season meetings between the two schools. PSU defeated the Falcons in the semifinals in 1986, 5-2, but Fitchburg returned the favor in the 1991 semis, 5-2, and the 1994 semis, 6-0. FSC defeated the Panthers in the first round in 1998, 11-2, and 1999, 6-2.
Saturday's game will be the fifth home hockey play-off game for Plymouth State. The Panthers split two games in 1986 at New Hampton, N.H., winning a first-round game over Saint Michael's (4-2) but losing the championship game to Curry (5-2). PSU was defeated twice in home games in Holderness, N.H., by Fitchburg State in 1991 (5-3) and by Assumption in 1993 (4-2).
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