Just 11 teams remain at the D-III level and all have the desire to win that coveted NCAA title.
This year, the schedule breaks down more favorably for those teams playing first-round games as the mid-week games are all moved to Saturday with the quarterfinals to follow a week later. That means some welcome rest and healing for teams coming off tough conference playoffs and a chance to recharge before going after the next big thing.
Picks – Tim Costello
Last week’s championship-round picks went 5-2-0 (.714) with a pair of top seeds being toppled on home ice counting for the losses. That brings the season record to 70-36-10 (.647) and with just three games on the docket on Saturday, I am looking for a clean sweep.
Saturday, March 12
Massachusetts-Boston @ Trinity – the Cinderella first-time Beacons travel to face the defending national champions in the first-round game on Saturday. The teams met last season with the Beacons topping the Bantams by a goal. I do believe in history repeating itself and facility guys at the Clark Center, don’t take the ice down just yet – UMB 4, Trinity 3
Salve Regina @ Geneseo – the ever-intriguing battle of offense vs. defense is showcased here, but alas, the home team can do it on both ends maybe a little better than the Seahawks, who have made every ranked opponent sweat it out. No difference in this game as both teams put on a show – Geneseo 2, Salve Regina 1
Salem State @ Williams – This one is extremely difficult to pick as both coaches are terrific as are their respective teams. The Vikings have been at this place before, but not so for the Ephs, who have been waiting to play a game for a couple of weeks. The Vikings have no rust and Marcus Zelzer steals one on the road for the visitors – Salem State 3, Williams 2
The neat thing about the final 11 teams is I believe that any one of them can string three or four wins together to take the NCAA title – drop the puck!
Picks – Brian Lester
The NCAA tournament begins this week and six teams will be in action, including reigning national champion Trinity.
Geneseo (18-4-6) vs. Salve Regina (17-10-1)
Geneseo just won its first conference crown since 2006 and is making its fifth NCAA tournament appearance. The Knights reached the final four in their last appearance.
Geneseo has won its last three and is 10-1-3 on its home ice. Stephen Collins leads the Knights in goals scored (22) and points (45). Trevor Hills has 20 goals on the year. Devin McDonald is 15-2-5 with a 2.48 GAA.
The Seahawks are in the NCAA tourney for the first time. They skate into this showdown riding a three-game win streak and goaltender Blake Wojtala is coming off back to-back shutouts. He is 13-7 on the year with a 2.17 GAA. Pat Thompson leads the scoring attack with 13 goals and has dished out five assists as well.
Williams (18-5-2) vs. Salem State (22-5)
The Ephs are making their first NCAA tournament appearance this week and are coming off their best-ever regular season in NESCAC play (14-2-2). Williams is playing well entering the tournament, winning 13 of its last 16 games.
No Williams player has scored in double digits in goals. David Italiano is the points leader with eight goals and 13 assists. Tyler Young has struck for eight goals as well to go along with 11 assists. Michael Pinios has played in 16 games in goal and is 12-3-1 with a 1.62 GAA. He has recorded two shutouts.
Salem State is one of the hottest teams in the country, having won 13 in a row, and it is in the tournament for the first time since 2014. Cam Moniz leads the Vikings with 19 goals and 10 assists. Brandon Platt is one of the team’s top playmakers, tallying 21 assists. He has scored seven goals as well. Goaltender Marcus Zelzer is 18-1 and has five shutouts to his credit.
Salem State, 5-3.
Trinity (21-5-1) vs. Massachusetts-Boston (21-4-3)
Trinity begins its quest for a second consecutive national title when it takes on UMass Boston in the opening round of the tourney. The Bantams are averaging 3.59 goals per game and were the top scoring team in the NESCAC. Anthony Sabitsky leads the offense with 12 goals and 17 assists. Goaltender Alex Morin is 14-2 on the year and owns a 1.73 GAA.
UMB is in the NCAA tournament for the first time and has won its last four games. The Beacons are averaging 4.32 goals per game. Matt Lemire leads the way offensively with 14 goals and 29 assists, while Colin Larkin has come through with 10 goals and 25 assists. A total of six players have scored 11 or more goals. Goaltender Billy Faust is 13-2-3 with two shutouts.