Panthers to host UMD, seeking second straight title
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – The stage is now set for the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) men's ice hockey championship as top-seeded Plymouth State University hosts #2-seeded University of Massachusetts Dartmouth this Saturday, Mar. 2, at 6:00 p.m. at Hanaway Rink.
Plymouth State is seeking its second straight men's hockey championship after edging Salem State University, 5-4, in double overtime in last year's title game. UMD is making its first appearance in the MASCAC Championship game, and could give the conference four different champions in four years (Salem State defeated Fitchburg State in overtime to win the first title in 2010, and Fitchburg returned the favor and nipped Salem in OT to claim the 2011 title prior to last year's PSU thriller.)
The game on Saturday is expected to be a sellout. Live webstreaming and live stats will be available on the Plymouth State website at athletics.plymouth.edu.
The Panthers earned their second straight MASCAC Championship game berth on Tuesday evening, scoring five third-period goals to defeat fifth-seeded Fitchburg State University, 7-1, while the Corsairs outlasted third-seeded Salem State University in triple overtime, 5-4, coming back from a 4-1 third-period deficit. The winner of Saturday's championship clash will receive the conference's automatic berth into the NCAA Division III Championships.
PSU, 19-6-1 overall, captured its second straight MASCAC regular season title and the tournament's top seed with a 14-3-1 mark. UMD, 11-7-7 overall, finished runner-up in the regular season with a 9-3-6 conference mark.
SEASON SERIES: Saturday's game will be the fourth meeting of the season between Plymouth State and UMass Dartmouth. The Panthers took the first game at UMD on Dec. 6th, 5-1, thanks to two goals by freshman Zach Fox (Sandown, N.H.); PSU won the second contest at Plymouth on Jan. 24, 2-1, on a late game-winning goal by senior Kyle Greco (Hillside, Ill.); and UMD rallied from three goals down late in the third period on Feb. 16 on home ice to pull out a 4-4 tie. Plymouth State has played 24 ECAC or MASCAC playoff games in 15 different years but has never faced UMD in the post-season.
IN THE POLLS: Plymouth State has been receiving interest in the national Division III polls all season long. In this week's voting, the Panthers are tied for 14th in this week's D3hockey.com national poll and are receiving votes in the USCHO.com Division III national poll. PSU is also ranked 15th in the East in the NCAA Division III Regional Rankings.
PROGRAM STANDARDS: Plymouth State's win over Fitchburg State in Tuesday's MASCAC semifinal was win #19 on the season, matching the program record for wins in a season set by the 1985-86 team (19-7-0). PSU is seeking its second conference championship after claiming the first in its 40-year history with last year's title.
HOME ICE: The Panthers are hoping to capitalize on the home-ice advantage; PSU has a 12-1 record at Hanaway Rink this season, and owns a 33-8-2 mark at home since the building opened in 2010.
100-POINT SCORERS: PSU has two players who went over the 100-point mark for their careers this season. Alex Cottle (West Chester, Pa.) became the ninth player in school history to reach the milestone on Feb. 2 against Framingham State, and Kyle Greco (Hillside, Ill.) followed on Feb. 16 at UMass Dartmouth. Greco, who played his freshman season at Wisconsin-Stevens Point, is also a finalist for the Joe Concannon Award, given by the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston to the best American-born college hockey player in New England playing at the D-II/III level.
ALL-CONFERENCE: The Panthers were well represented on this year's MASCAC All-Conference Team. Five of the six players on the First Team are from PSU, with an additional Panther named to the Second Team. Panther head coach Craig Russell was voted MASCAC Coach of the Year by his peers for the second straight season. Senior defenseman Richie Zobak (Evergreen Park, Ill.) led the way for PSU, earning First Team All-Conference honors for the fourth straight season. The other First Team defenseman is PSU sophomore Zach Sarig (Reading, Pa.), a first-time selection, while Panther junior blue-liner Dave Walters (Ottawa, Ont.) was a Second Team Selection. Senior goaltender Jack Astedt (Angelholm, Sweden) earned his third straight All-Conference selection and his second consecutive First Team nod. The Panthers were well-represented on the forward line with two First Team choices in seniors Kyle Greco (Hillside, Ill.) and Alex Cottle (West Chester, Pa.)
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