March 4, 2012

Leopards to Battle Panthers in NCAA Tournament

BOSTON, Mass. – After defeating two-time defending ECAC Northeast champion Curry, 1-0, in overtime on Saturday, the Wentworth hockey team earned its fifth berth into the NCAA Division III Men's Ice Hockey Tournament. As revealed on Sunday evening, the 20-6-1 Leopards will travel to Plymouth State to play a first-round game on Wednesday night (March 7) at 7:00 p.m.

The Panthers, 17-6-3 overall, and Leopards, 20-6-1, are two of 11 teams competing for the Division III national championship, and two of eight which received their conference's automatic berth into the tournament. PSU captured the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) championship while Wentworth won the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) Northeast title. The NCAA quarterfinals are Saturday, Mar. 10, on campus sites, with the NCAA semifinals and championship set for Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Mar. 16-17.

Both teams won their conference tournaments in dramatic fashion to earn their NCAA berths. PSU pulled out a heart-stopping 5-4 double overtime victory Saturday night over Salem State University before a capacity crowd at Hanaway Rink, the first conference championship in Plymouth State's 40-year history of men's ice hockey and the first automatic berth in the three-year history of the MASCAC. Wentworth won the ECAC Northeast title, 1-0, on a penalty shot goal in the extra session. It was the Leopards' fifth ECAC Northeast championship.

Winners of a school record-tying 10 contests in a row, the Leopards are led by freshman Mike Domsodi (Kirkland, Que.), who has 34 points on 19 goals and 15 assists, while senior Skylur Jameson (Long Beach, Calif.), Wentworth's all-time leading scorer with 159 points, has 10 goals and 23 assists for 33 points. Senior Casey Shade (Anchorage, Alaska) rounds out the Leopards' top scorers with 28 points (12 goals, 16 assists).

On defense, juniors Shaun Jameson (Long Beach, Calif.) and Reed Rushing (Seattle, Wash.) have 24 and 14 points, respectively, while in net, freshman Alex Peck (Kirkland, Que.) – who was named the ECAC Northeast Tournament Most Outstanding Player after posting a shutout in the championship game – is 12-2-1 with a 2.04 goals against average and a .919 save percentage.

Wentworth head coach R.J. Tolan, the 2012 ECAC Northeast Coach of the Year, is in his sixth season behind the bench and has a 99-51-1 (.659) record. A win on Wednesday night would make him the second coach in the program's history to reach the 100-win plateau.

Picked to finish fourth in the MASCAC, the Panthers captured the regular season conference title with a 12-3-3 mark. The top seed in the MASCAC Tournament, PSU dispatched fifth-seeded Worcester State University, 7-1, in last Tuesday's semifinal contest before the dramatic win over Salem State in Saturday's title tilt. Plymouth State needed a goal in the final three minutes of regulation to force overtime, and killed off a penalty in the second overtime before claiming the title from the Vikings on home ice. After a slow start, the Panthers went 6-0-1 in February and take a nine-game unbeaten streak (8-0-1) into the NCAA Tournament. Second-year head coach Craig Russell was selected by his peers as the 2012 MASCAC Coach of the Year.

This game will feature two semifinalists for the Joe Concannon Award, given annually to the top American-born collegiate hockey player in New England. Both Skylur Jameson and Panther Junior Kyle Greco (Hillside, Ill.) are among the 18 players still in contention for the award.

Plymouth State and Wentworth met twice earlier this season at Hanaway Rink, and the Leopards took both games on Jan. 7-8, by scores of 5-2 and 3-1. The teams also posted consecutive 2-2 ties when they met in Boston on Jan. 9-10, 2011. This will be the 18th meeting all-time between the two schools, with the Leopards holding a 14-1-2 advantage.

In four previous appearances in the NCAA Tournament, Wentworth has an 0-6 record, having lost at St. Thomas (Minn.) twice (6-0, 10-3) in 2000, losing at Middlebury twice (6-0, 9-1) in 2002, losing at Oswego (4-3) in 2003, and falling at Middlebury (9-1) in 2004.

NCAA Bracket