March 7, 2009
BOSTON, MA - The eighth-seeded University of Massachusetts Boston men's ice hockey team will travel to Henniker, NH to take on seventh-seeded Babson College in the ECAC East Tournament Championship on Saturday, March 7 at 4:00 p.m. at Lee Clement Arena on the campus of host New England College. The Beacons advanced to the championship after pulling their second straight upset with a 5-4 victory over number four seed New England College last night in Henniker. UMass Boston's victory over New England College was its first over the Pilgrims since February 9, 1996 to snap a 16-game winless streak and marked the first win over NEC in Henniker since November 20, 1993.
The Beacons are 10-15-2 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), New England College (15-10-2) and nationally ranked Norwich (13-8-4) and Middlebury College (19-6-1). Eight of the team's losses have been by one goal, including three in overtime. UMass Boston finds itself in the league title game for the first time in school history. The Beacons did win the ECAC Division III Tournament Championship in 1982, prior to an NCAA Division III tournament. UMB defeated Babson in the only meeting between the clubs on December 10 in Babson Park, 4-2, behind four unanswered goals, following a pair of first period scores for the Beavers.
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 in ECAC East with at least six players with eight or more goals to its credit for a well-balanced offensive effort that averages 3.04 goals per game. The Beacons' leading goal-scorers are sophomore forward Eric Tufman (Abington, PA) with 10 goals, including four game-winners, and freshman defenseman Wayne Sands (Chalfant, PA) with a school-record 10 tallies by a defenseman, including the game-winner at Norwich, to place them 11th among all goal-scorers in ECAC East, while Sands ranks 10th among the league's defensemen with 15 points. Tufman's 24 points place him 14th in the league, while junior forward Kris Kranzky (Glendora, CA) tops the team with 25 points, including a team-high 17 assists, which is the 12th-highest point total and ninth-most assists in the league. Sophomore forwards Vinnie Jacona (East Stroudsburg, PA) (9-9-18) and Matt Atsoff (Macomb, MI) (8-7-15) in addition to freshman forward Chris Wyman (Bartlett, IL) (8-10-18) 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 fifth, 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 3.27 mark and has solidified his reputation as a big-game goaltender with wins at Babson, Middlebury, Norwich and New England College. He ranks fifth in the league with 1,101:57 minutes played and fourth with 529 saves and became the Beacons' career leader in saves earlier this season and now has 2,273 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 Beavers bring a 12-13-1 overall record, including 9-10-0 in league play to the championship game and are led by junior forward Jason Schneider (Littleton, MA) with 32 points on 11 goals and 21 assists. The forward ranks fifth among ECAC East leaders in points, second in assists and ninth in goals, including five power play scores to place him eighth in the league. Senior forward Brad Baldelli (Northboro, MA) has tallied 23 points on nine goals and 14 assists to help a Babson offense that averages 3.27 goals per game to rank fourth in ECAC East. Senior defenseman Alex DiPietro (Winthrop, MA) has tallied 26 points on seven goals and 19 helpers to rank 11th among the nation's top scoring defensemen and leads all ECAC blueliners in points and is fourth among all league leaders in assists. Freshman goaltender Andrew Peabody (Marblehead, MA) has seized the starting goaltending duties with a stellar 2.33 goals against average in 953:57 minutes of action, while posting a .907 save percentage to lead the Beavers defense to a team mark of 2.81 goals allowed per game to place fourth in the league. He ranks fourth in the league in GAA and owns a 10-7-0 record. Babson has been exceptional on the penalty kill, staving off 85.4% of opponents' chances to rank second in ECAC East and has been effective on its own power play, scoring on 21.6% of its own chances to rank third.