March 4, 2009

BOSTON, MA - The eighth-seeded University of Massachusetts Boston men's ice hockey team will travel to Henniker, NH to take on fourth-seeded New England College in the semifinals of the ECAC East Tournament on Friday, March 6 at 7:00 p.m. The Beacons advanced to the semi-finals round after upsetting top-seeded and nationally-ranked Norwich University, 1-0, in overtime on February 28, while the Pilgrims advanced with 4-3 overtime win over number five seed University of Southern Maine. UMass Boston's victory over number 15 in the nation Norwich was its first over the Cadets since February 23, 1991 to snap a 23-game winless streak and marked the first time that a number eight seed has beaten a number one seed in ECAC East Tournament history.

The Beacons are 9-15-2 overall on the season, while compiling a 4-14-1 mark in league play and have wins over Skidmore College (13-9-3), UMass Dartmouth (16-8-2) and nationally ranked Norwich (13-8-4) and Middlebury College (18-6-1). Eight of the team's losses have been by one goal, including three in overtime. UMB finds itself in the league semifinals for the second straight year after upsetting a higher seed on the road after beating Babson College last year, 4-1. New England College is 15-9-2 and 9-8-2 and defeated UMass Boston, 5-2, at the Clark Athletic Center in Boston on February 6.

The Beacons took the region by surprise last season with a roster packed full of young, but talented players and continues that trend this year with 13 freshman and eight sophomores out of 27 players. UMass Boston is the only team left in the ECAC East tournament with at least five players with eight or more goals to its credit for a well-balanced offensive effort that averages 2.96 goals per game. The Beacons' leading goal-scorer is freshman defenseman Wayne Sands (Chalfant, PA) with a school-record 10 tallies by a defenseman, including the game-winner at Norwich, to place 10th among all players in ECAC East, while ranking 10th among the league's defensemen with 15 points. Junior forward Kris Kranzky (Glendora, CA) tops the team with 22 points, including a team-high 15 assists, which is the 12th-most in the league. Sophomore forwards Eric Tufman (Abington, PA) (8-13-21), Vinnie Jacona (East Stroudsburg, PA) (8-9-17) and Matt Atsoff (Macomb, MI) (8-7-15) in addition to freshman forward Chris Wyman (Bartlett, IL) (8-9-17) lead UMass Boston's scoring attack, while sophomore blueliner Brett Calhoun (Tulsa, OK) (5-8-13) complements Sands as an offensive threat from the defensive end of the ice. Wyman and Sands rank fourth and six, respectively, among the league's top point-scoring rookies. Junior goalie Ryan Donovan (Rexford, NY) has posted the lowest goals against average of his career with a 3.22 mark and has solidified his reputation as a big-game goaltender with wins at Babson, Middlebury and Norwich. He ranks fifth in the league with 1,041:57 minutes played and fourth with 499 saves and became the Beacons' career leader in saves earlier this season and now has 2,243 stops. Freshman Kevin Bendel (Denville, NJ) has also shown that he is up to the task, owning a 2.96 GAA with a .920 save mark in seven contests, while playing nearly 400 minutes. The rookie made his debut, stopping 24 shots in a 3-2 overtime loss at Norwich and registered his first career shutout in a 4-0 win with a season-high 40 stops vs. Skidmore College. UMass Boston is averaging just 11.8 minutes per game in the penalty box, which is the lowest total in the league.

The Pilgrims feature a distinct Scandinavian flair with 12 players residing from either Sweden or Finland on their roster. Junior forward Mark Ehl (North Vancouver, BC) leads the team with 25 points on nine goals and a team-high 16 assists and ranks 10th among ECAC East players in both categories, while freshman Olli Kalliosaari (Hattula, Finland) leads the squad with 11 goals to place eighth in the league in addition to 12 assists for 23 points, while leading all ECAC rookies in points. He (five PPG) and Ehl (six PPG) lead a New England College power play unit, which leads ECAC East with 30 power play goals as a team and ranks fourth in power play proficiency with a 20.8% (30-144) success rate. Junior defenseman Trevor Turner (Westbank, BC) leads the Pilgrims' defensemen with 17 points on four goals and 13 assists to place him seventh among the league's blueliners in points and has helped the NEC penalty kill unit ward off 84.4% (119/141) of its opponents' chances to place fourth in the league. Sophomore goaltender Aaron Harvey (Milford, NS) has been outstanding between the pipes for the Pilgrims, owning a 2.38 goals against mark to rank fifth in the league, while his .918 save percentage places him third in a league-high 1,486:01 minutes of action. New England College boasts the third-highest goals per game output of 3.35 per game in ECAC East, while allowing the second-fewest goals per game with 2.46.