NORTH DARTMOUTH, MA – With the third longest game in NCAA Division III history behind it, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth hockey team will try to win the Massachusetts Collegiate Athletic Conference championship for the first time when it visits regular-season champion Plymouth State Saturday evening. Game time is 6:00 p.m. at the Panthers' Hanaway Rink. The game is sold out.
The Corsairs are 11-7-7 going into the championship game, while the Panthers are 19-6-1. PSU took five of six points during the regular season, winning 5-1 at Hetland Arena December 6th and 2-1 at PSU January 24th before the Corsairs overcame a three-goal, third period deficit in rallying for a 4-4 tie at Hetland February 16th.
The Panthers and Corsairs each received first-round byes, with PSU defeating Fitchburg State in their semi-final Tuesday evening, 7-1, and UMass Dartmouth outlasting Salem State 5-4 in triple overtime in a game that went 101 minutes and 55 seconds before junior defenseman Nate Dupere (Fall River, MA/Hebron Academy) scored the game-winning goal.
"We're happy that we can continue our proud tradition of success," said UMass Dartmouth Head Coach John Rolli. "This will be our 17th conference championship game. We are 11-5 in league championship games, with five out of the 11 championships won on the road. Our overall playoff record is 50-20 for a .714 winning percentage."
The Corsairs have leaned heavily on their top line, which comes into the game with 36 goals and 31 assists for 67 points.
"Our first line of (seniors) Phil Bronner (Wilbraham, MA/Springfield Jr. Falcons-EJHL), Dave McDonald (Wakefield, MA/Valley Jr. Warriors-EJHL) and Nick Marquis (Londonderry, NH/Valley Jr. Warriors-EJHL) have been a going concern for us all season long," said Rolli. "On defense, we've been led by our number one pairing of (senior) Zach Hepler (Sarver, PA/Dixie Beehives-OPJHL) and (sophomore) Steve Ginand (Milford, MA/Northern Cyclones-AtJHL). (Senior) Ryan Williams (Milton, ON/Huntsville Otters-OPJHL) has been a model of consistency all season long, and is certainly deserving of his recent All-Conference selection."
Rolli expects the Panthers will be a tough opponent.
"Plymouth is clearly a tremendous team, with 13 seniors on their roster, five of the six first team All-Conference players, and the MASCAC Coach of the Year (Craig Russell)," said Rolli. "They have the experience of having played in a championship game at home a year ago. Clearly, we're the underdogs going in, but having scored three goals in the final six minutes of the game two weeks ago against Plymouth to pull out a 4-4 tie has given us some confidence going into the championship game."
UMD has seven ties in their first 25 games this season, but that won't happen Saturday.
"It's been a frustrating season, having only won 11 games, while at the same time, we've only lost seven games," said Rolli. "The frustrating part is the seven ties. However, like Tuesday's three-overtime thriller, there will be no ties on Saturday night."
The winner of Saturday's game will earn the MASCAC's automatic berth in the NCAA Division III Championships. Pairings will be announced Sunday night, and the tournament begins Wednesday.
UMASS DARTMOUTH HOCKEY