Panthers' season ends in MASCAC semifinal
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – The 2018 NCAA Division III Men's Ice Hockey Championship field is set and Plymouth State University was not among the teams to receive an at large bid.
The NCAA announced the field of 12 teams for the tournament Monday morning. PSU, which was tied for seventh in the East Region in last week's third regional rankings, fell in the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) semifinals to fourth-seeded University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, ending the Panthers' year with a 19-5-2 mark.
PSU enjoyed another successful regular season, earning national recognition in both the USCHO and D3hockey.com polls and appearing in the NCAA regional rankings for the first time in program history. The Panthers topped out as high as #13 in the country in the USCHO poll and #14 in the D3hockey.com rankings.
PSU earned the MASCAC regular season title for the sixth time in seven years and advanced to the semifinal round of the MASCAC Tournament for the seventh straight season.
The Panthers ended the year among the nation's best in a number of categories. PSU finished eighth in the country in scoring offense (4.23 goals/game) and #13 nationally in scoring defense (2.15 goals/game), for a 2.08 scoring difference, which was seventh best in the country. The Panthers' power play finished with a 25.2% success rate, the seventh highest conversion rate in the nation.
After finishing the first semester 8-3-1, PSU ran off eight straight victories to open 2018, not losing until a Feb. 3 game with Fitchburg State University.
The Panthers had seven players finish with more than 20 points, led by junior Ryan Stevens (Colleyville, Texas) with a team-high 37. He ends the year just 13 points shy of the 100-career point mark, while his 1.48 points per game average was tied for the 14th most in the country. He was one of just seven players nationally to average more than one assist per game (1.08) and his 27 assists were tied for the ninth most in a season in program history.
Classmate Matt Volonnino (Hackettstown, N.J.) led the team with 14 goals despite missing extended time due to injury, while freshman JR Barone (West Chester, Pa.) emerged as a legitimate scoring threat with 12 goals on the year, the seventh most among freshmen nationwide.
Sophomore Victor Bergstrom (Angelholm, Sweden) and junior Tim Perron (Northborough, Mass.) finished as two of the top-scoring defensemen in the country. Bergstrom ended the year with eight goals and 15 assists to average 1.10 points per game, the fifth-most among defensemen in the nation. Perron ended with six goals and 14 assists.
Junior Evan Morelli (Reading, Mass.) enjoyed another superb year between the pipes posting marks that ranked among the program's all-time best. He ended the year with a 1.93 goals against average, the second lowest in program history and twelfth-best in the country. His career GAA now sits at 2.03, the lowest mark all-time. His 16 wins (16-3-1) were the second most in Panther history, while his 0.825 winning percentage was third best in the nation. His six career shutouts are tied for the second most all-time.
The upset loss marked the end of the careers of seniors Chris Zuccaro (Hudson, N.H.) and Caleb O'Brien (Saginaw, Mich.), though the Panthers expect to contend on a national stage once again next year.
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