BOSTON, Mass.—For only the third time in UMass Boston men's ice hockey history, the Beacons will be hosting an ECAC East Tournament game, when the postseason begins this weekend. Second-seeded UMass Boston and #7 University of New England will square off for the first time in the postseason, when the two teams meet Saturday February 23, at 2 p.m. at the Clark Athletic Center Ice Arena.
The Beacons, who carry a record of 3-11 in the quarterfinal round of the ECAC East Tournament are looking for their first postseason win since their miracle run to the ECAC East Tournament Championship as the eight seed in 2009. Since then the Beacons have gone 0-3 under head coach Peter Belisle, including suffering their first ever home loss in the ECAC East Tournament in 2011, when they fell 4-1 to the University of Southern Maine.
UMass Boston will look to reverse one trend and keep another going, as they are unbeaten against the Nor'Easters all-time, holding a 7-0-1 mark over the course of the past four seasons. This season the Beacons won all three matchups, outscoring UNE 16-10, including earning a victory in the P.A.L. Stovepipe Classic.
The University of New England is 0-3 all-time in the ECAC East Tournament and have lost three three games by a combined score of 23-3. On all three occasions the Nor'Easters were matched up with Norwich University, as part of the 1-8 Quarterfinal matchup of the ECAC East Tournament.
Peter Belisle's squad has excelled offensively all season long, ending the regular season ranked third amongst 78 Division III squads with 4.72 goals per game.
The first line of Mike DeGrazia (Novi, Mich.), Travis Daniel (North Brunswick, N.J.) and Max Reavis (Omaha, Neb.) have been a key part of that success, contributing 37, 33 and 22 points respectively. DeGrazia is amongst the top 25 skaters in the country in goals and points per game, while Daniel is third in the country with his 26 assists and 1.04 assists per game. In the Beacons three games this season against UNE, the trio has combined for eight goals and 15 assists.
While the top line has grabbed most of the headlines, every UMB line recorded at least 14 goals during the regular season, with the Beacons "Freshmen" line leading the way with 36 markers. The second line comprised all of all freshmen has put up staggering numbers, with Peter MacIntyre (Norfolk, Mass.), Frankie DeAugustine (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Kit Sitterley (Mooresville, N.C.) all eclipsing 25 points during their first season on campus.
Don't count out the third or fourth lines either, as the final six skaters include: a top scorer in Tim Richter (Naugatuck, Conn.), a pair of the team's top penalty killers in Mike Kuhn (Holbrook, Mass.) and Mark Grinhaus (Scarsdale, N.Y.) and three terrific two-way skating freshman: Derek Colucci (North Scituate, R.I.), Jeremy Finger (Orlando, Fla.) and Mike Miller (Wrentham, Mass.).
While the team's offense carried the Beacons through much of the first half of the season, the UMB defense has come along nicely over the second half of the season. Over the final 11 games of the regular season, Zach Andrews (Coral Springs, Fla.) and the team's core group of six defensemen have given up just 2.8 goals per game during an 8-2-1 stretch.
Andrews has been playing some of his best hockey of the year over the last month, including recording his first career shutout last Friday against St. Michael's College. The freshman netminder ended the regular season with a 16-5-2 record, an .890 save percentage and 3.14 goals against average.
The freshman has been helped out by a veteran group of defensemen led by three senior members. Captain Tim Niedzielak (Chicago, Ill.) and fellow senior Rob Florentino (West Roxbury, Mass.) both have posted career highs for points and assists, while Steve Weston (Henniker, N.H.), the final senior, has two game-winning goals this year, including one against the Nor'Easters.
With a win on Saturday the Beacons will advance to the semi-final round of the tournament, which will be played on Friday, March 1 at a site to be determined. This year's championship will be played on March 2 with this year's winner earning the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament.