Top-seeded Panthers to host No. 4 Westfield State in semifinals
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – The top-seeded Plymouth State University men's ice hockey team begins its quest for back-to-back Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) Tournament championships with a semifinal game against fourth-seeded Westfield State University Tuesday (Mar. 3) at Hanaway Rink at 7:00 p.m.
PSU clinched its eighth regular season title in nine years last week, claiming the top seed for the tournament for the fourth straight year to earn home ice advantage throughout the remainder of the playoffs. Westfield State snapped a four-game losing streak with a first-round victory over fifth-seeded Salem State on Saturday.
Doors open at 6:00 p.m. and there are no advanced ticket sales for the game. Plymouth State season passes are valid for all MASCAC Tournament games. The league has produced a digital program available at https://bit.ly/38dchYT.
PSU (13-9-3, 13-3-2 MASCAC) wrapped up a fourth-straight regular season title last week and is riding a five-game unbeaten streak (4-0-1). Westfield State (12-9-5, 9-7-2 MASCAC) rallied from a 2-0 third period deficit to shock Salem State, 3-2, in a first-round game on Saturday.
Plymouth State enters the contest full of confidence, having outscored the Owls by a 15-2 margin in their last two meetings. Westfield State took the series opener, 5-2, in Westfield in mid-November, but the Panthers skated to lopsided wins of 7-1 and 8-1 at Hanaway Rink in January and February.
PSU has advanced to the title game in seven of the last eight seasons and once again boasts the top offense in the league averaging 4.33 goals per game. The Panthers are near the top of the conference in scoring defense as well, as PSU ranks third with 2.11 goals allowed per game.
Freshman Myles Abbate (Norwell, Mass.) is tied for the league lead with 14 goals and his 23 points are tops on the team, while classmate Leo Stolpe (Stockholm, Sweden) and juniors Jake Gerbner (Havertown, Pa.) and Peter Laviolette (Brentwood, Tenn.) have each lit the lamp nine times this year. Junior JR Barone (West Chester, Pa.) has a team-high 14 assists, while he and Stolpe both have over 20 points on the year. Senior Andreas Pettersson (Trollhattan, Sweden) has enjoyed a strong year between the pipes, leading the MASCAC in goal against average (1.85) and sitting fourth with a .934 save percentage.
Westfield State enters averaging 3.28 goals per game, third in the league, while allowing 3.22 (fourth best). Senior Daniel Backstrom (Helsinki, Finland) is tied with Abbate for the league-lead in goals scored and singlehandedly led the Owls' comeback on Saturday. He scored all three Westfield goals in the final 15 minutes of play to rally the Owls to the semifinal round, including the game-winner with just 10.5 seconds left on the clock.
Backstrom is hardly the Owls' only offensive threat, however, as four players have at least ten tallies on the year and five totaled 20-plus points. Westfield's biggest question mark will be at the goaltender position. Senior Thierry Messervier has a 2.78 GAA and .922 save percentage for the season but has struggled against his former team this year. In three head-to-head meetings he has gone 1-2-0 with a 6.53 GAA and .829 save percentage, and in two games at Hanaway Rink he's allowed 10.50 goals a game and has just a .760 save percentage.
Plymouth State is in search of its fourth tournament crown, while the Owls are looking to advance to the title game for the first time. PSU is 2-1 all-time in the postseason against Westfield, though the teams haven't met since the 2014-15 semifinal round when the Panthers skated to a 3-0 win.
The winner of tomorrow's contest will face the winner of No. 2 Fitchburg State and No. 3 UMass Dartmouth for the tournament title and automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament on Saturday (Mar. 7) at the site of the highest remaining seed.
Additional information regarding the MASCAC Tournament can be found on the conference's website, www.mascac.com.
– 30 –