ECAC East Quarterfinal Preview: #3 Men's Hockey vs. #6 University of New England
BOSTON, Mass.—For the second consecutive season, third-seeded UMass Boston and sixth-seeded University of New England will face off at the Clark Athletic Center in the ECAC East Quarterfinals.
Saturday February 22 at 3 p.m.
ALL-TIME SERIES: The Beacons lead the all-time series 13-0-1 against the University of New England in a series that dates back to 1981. UMass Boston has won nine contests in a row dating back to December of 2011, including going a perfect 7-for-7 against the Nor'Easters over the past two seasons.
SEASON SERIES: Peter Belisle's squad earned a season-sweep of the Nor'Easters for the third consecutive season with three victories in three contests. The Beacons grabbed a 5-2 victory over the University of New England in the P.A.L. Stovepipe Classic Championship Game, before adding a 6-1 victory on the Nor'Easters home ice five days later. The third and final meeting of the regular season proved to be much tighter, as the Beacons needed a three-goal third period to escape with a 4-3 victory on Senior Day.
A trio of Beacons came up huge in their three victories over UNE. First Team ECAC East honoree Peter MacIntyre (Norfolk, Mass.) recorded four goals and six assists, while Second Team selection Travis Daniel (North Brunswick, N.J.) tallied a game-winning goal and seven assists. In net, Zach Andrews (Coral Springs, Fla.) went 3-0 by registering a 2.00 goals against average and a .921 save percentage (70 saves on 76 shots).
Jared Melman was one of the few standouts for the University of New England with three goals in three contests, while Trevor Fleurent added a goal and two assists. Junior goaltender Colby Drost started two of the three games this season against the Beacons and registered an .882 save percentage, while making 37 or more saves in both games.
SCOUTING THE NOR'EASTERS: Brad Holt's squad is looking for their first postseason victory since joining the ECAC East Conference, after falling 5-2 a year ago to the Beacons in the #2-#7 ECAC East Quarterfinal matchup.
The Nor'Easters 10 wins are a new program-record since UNE began Division III play in the 2009-10 season. After a 5-10-1 start to the season, the University of New England has been playing their best hockey over the month, finishing the season on a 5-4-0 run, including earning victories over fourth-seeded New England College (1-0) and fifth-seeded Castleton State College (5-3).
Melman has been a huge part of that success, scoring a program-record four goals on Senior Day in a victory over St. Anselm College and becoming the first player to earn ECAC East All-Conference accolades by being named an Honorable Mention selection. The reigning ECAC East Player of the Week leads the team with 15 goals, 11 assists, 26 points, four power-play markers and two game-winning tallies. He's really picked his play up over the past three weekends, recording seven goals and three assists in six games.
The other player to watch for UNE will be Drost. A year after splitting time with Craig Ryan and Ian Edwards, Drost has become the number one goaltender, starting 20 of 25 games and earning a 10-9-1 record. In 1204 minutes this year, Drost posted a 3.44 goals against average and .908 save percentage.
SCOUTING THE BEACONS: #14/16 UMass Boston is looking to win back-to-back ECAC East Quarterfinal matchups for the first time since 2008-09. After getting off to a 13-1-2 start, UMass Boston slowed a bit over their final nine games, finishing the season 3-4-2 over their final nine games.
Rather than relying on one player offensively, UMass Boston's greatest strength has been their balance, with five players with 20 or more points and 11 skaters with 10 or more points. Senior Mike Kuhn (Holbrook, Mass.) and freshman Tyler Bishop (Ramsey, N.J.) have been big surprises for UMass Boston, with Kuhn sitting sixth on the team with 19 points (10 goals and nine assists) and Bishop leading all UMass Boston freshman and defenseman with four goals, 12 assists and 16 points.
The biggest question coming into Saturday's contest is who will be in net for UMass Boston? Andrews and fellow sophomore Billy Faust (Alta Loma, Calif.) have traded starts over the past month, with both goaltenders posting solid numbers. While Andrews is 3-0 against the University of New England this year and 7-0 all-time against the Nor'Easters, Faust's overall numbers are slightly better, as he's registered a team-best 2.18 goals against average and .938 save percentage in eight starts.
With a victory Saturday, Belisle would become the first head coach in UMass Boston history to reach 100 victories. Belisle heads into the contest with a 99-95-15 record in eight seasons and a 4-7 all-time mark in postseason play.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: UMass Boston has been extremely strong on the power-play all season-long and that's been especially true against the University of New England.
The Beacons' power-play, which ranks seventh in the nation at 27.9 percent, has converted on 6-of-12 power-plays thus far against the University of New England. If the Nor'Easters 76th ranked penalty-kill (70.2 percent) can't step it up, it could be a long day for the visitors.