NORTHFIELD — The Norwich men’s hockey team will carry one of the nation’s longest undefeated streaks into Saturday’s NCAA Division III Quarterfinal against the University of New England.
A trip to the Frozen Four will be up for grabs as the Cadets put their 17-game unbeaten streak on the line at Kreitzberg Arena. Wisconsin-Stevens Point (28 games) and Geneseo (22 games) are the only D-III teams with longer strings of undefeated play.
The Cadets (21-4-3) are eyeing their fifth NCAA title after earning an automatic berth to the tourney with a 2-1 victory over Hobart College in the New England Hockey Conference Tournament Championship.
Norwich is 15-0-2 in its past 17 games and will be making its 18th NCAA Tournament appearance.
Norwich has advanced to the Frozen Four 13 times, winning its fourth championship two years ago in Utica, New York.
The Cadets will take on a UNE side (21-6-2) that knocked off NESCAC champ Trinity, 2-1, in the NCAA First Round. The Nor’Easters beat Salve Regina, 6-2, in the CCC Championship game for their first-ever conference tournament title and an automatic bid into the NCAA field. UNE is 1-1 in NCAA tourney appearances following a 4-2 loss to Colby last year. For the first time since 2005, the Frozen Four will be held at a campus site this season.
In other quarterfinal matchups, UW-Stevens Point hosts St. Norbert, Oswego State hosts Hobart and Geneseo hosts Manhattanville. St. Norbert beat Augsburg, 4-3, in overtime to advance to the quarterfinal round. Hobart beat Plymouth State, 2-1. Manhattanville downed UMass Boston, 6-4, in first-round action.
Saturday will mark the 17th meeting between Norwich and the University of New England. The Cadets own a 14-2 record against the Nor’Easters, but UNE has won the last two meetings (both at Kreitzberg). The two teams were members of the ECAC East and the NEHC until UNE left the CCC in 2015.
UNE won the last NEHC regular-season meeting against the Cadets, prevailing 4-3 in overtime on Jan. 15, 2016. The Nor’Easters also won the Northfield Savings Bank Holiday Tournament title last season with a 1-0 victory.
Norwich is led offensively by sophomore forward Felix Brassard (10 goals, 17 assists). Freshman Brett Ouderkirk leads the team with 14 goals and 12 assists. Brassard was named to the NEHC Second Team, while Ouderkirk earned NEHC All-Rookie Team honors.
Sophomore Coby Downs has five goals and a team-leading 19 assists. Junior Jordan Hall (11 goals, seven assists) scored the game-winning goal against Suffolk in the quarterfinals. He also sealed a semifinal win over Babson with an empty-net goal late in the third period.
Freshmen defenseman Gabriel Chicoine (six goals, 15 assists) and forward Maxime Borduas (seven goals, 13 assists) round out NU’s offensive leaders. Chicoine earned NEHC All-Rookie and Third Team honors.
Norwich junior goalie Tom Aubrun is 18-3-3 with a 1.68 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage. He has recorded six shutouts, tying the NU single-season record set by 2010 graduate Ryan Klingensmith. Aubrun was named the NEHC co-Player of the Year and Goalie of the Year.
UNE features one of the nation’s top offenses, led by the dynamic duo of senior Brady Fleurent and junior Ryan Bloom. The Nor’Easters have scored an average of 4.69 goals per game, ranking third in the nation.
Fleurent has 13 goals and 35 assists to rank second in Division III in total points. Bloom’s 22 goals leave him tied for third in the nation and he also has 21 assists.
Junior defenseman Dimitris Jones (three goals, 24 assists) is among the nation’s leaders in points by blue-liners. Fleurent was named the CCC Player of the Year, while Bloom and Jones also earned CCC First Team honors. Sophomores Tyler Seltenreich (14 goals, 11 assists) and Brett Mecrones (12 goal, 10 assists) are also potent scorers for UNE.
In goal, sophomore Ben Churchfield has compiled a 16-5-2 record and a 2.10 goals-against average to go along with a .924 save percentage. Churchfield made 42 saves last season against Norwich, earning MVP honors after shutting out the Cadets in the NSB Holiday Tournament Championship.
Norwich is led by first-year coach Cam Ellsworth, who replaced Mike McShane. Ellsworth previously served as an assistant and associate head coach at UMass Lowell for seven seasons.
UNE is coached by Kevin Swallow, who helped build the Nor’Easters into a perennial national contender. Swallow is 70-32-10 during four years at UNE. He previously coached at Nichols, and went 125-52-17 overall with his three years. Swallow earned two ECAC Northeast Coach of the Year awards at Nichols prior to joining UNE.