February 24, 2012

Hockey Begins Quest for NCAA Playoff Berth

Junior goaltender Ryan Williams

Junior goaltender Ryan Williams

NORTH DARTMOUTH, MA -For the second time in three years, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth's hockey team will begin post-season play against Westfield State. The Corsairs will host the Owls in the quarter-final round of the MASCAC playoffs Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at the Stephan Hetland Ice Arena in New Bedford, MA.

The Corsairs defeated the Owls before losing at Fitchburg State in their initial venture into MASCAC post-season play two seasons ago, and fell victim to Fitchburg State in double overtime at home last season. This season, the MASCAC winner is eligible for an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championships for the first time.

UMass Dartmouth brings a 15-8-2 record into Saturday's game. The Corsairs went 10-6-2 in MASCAC play and earned the third seed in the tournament. Westfield State went 7-13-5 overall, was 4-10-4 in the MASCAC and is the sixth seed.

The Corsairs have won two of their last three games, sandwiching one-sided wins against Fitchburg State and Framing State around a loss at first place Plymouth State. "I feel very good about the way our team has been playing," said UMass Dartmouth Head Coach John Rolli. "We impressed upon our team that we need to play a certain style to be successful, and they've accepted it and carried it out all year long."

UMass Dartmouth's 98 goals are the high water mark for a MASCAC team this season. "I like the fact that we scored 14 goals over our last three games," said Rolli. "We're very happy to be hosting a game. UMass Dartmouth has had a very successful string of home playoff games at Hetland Arena." Prior to joining the MASCAC, the Corsairs hosted and won three consecutive Eastern College Athletic Conference Northeast championship games at Hetland, advancing to the NCAAs on each occasion.

The Owls are 3-2-1 in their past six games, a streak that includes a tie with UMass Dartmouth at Hetland and an overtime win against second place Salem State. "Westfield State is a very dangerous team," said Rolli. "Last year, they went on the road and beat Plymouth State. They have scored 66 goals, and 30 of them have been on the power play, where they are most dangerous, and as good as any team in the conference. Twelve of the 20 goals they've scored in their last six games have come on the power play. They also have Eddie Davey in goal, and he made 48 saves against us two weeks ago in a 1-1 tie. This game has all the makings of an exciting playoff game."

The winner of Saturday's game will advance to the semi-finals at Salem State Tuesday night.