BOSTON, Mass. – After earning their third straight ECAC East Tournament Quarterfinal victory last Saturday, the road to the 2015 ECAC East Title will once again go through Northfield, Vermont, as the Beacons get set to face the top-seeded Cadets of Norwich University Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. at Kreitzberg Arena in the semi-final round of this year's conference tournament.
Jan. 31 - at Norwich, L 1-5
UMass Boston is looking to build off their huge 3-2 victory over Manhattanville College last Saturday, as they face perhaps the most dominant program in the history of the ECAC East conference. The Beacons hold just three wins in the previous 13 meetings with the Cadets, who will be in the hunt for their sixth conference title, in the program's history. Saturday's match-up will mark just the third postseason meeting between the longtime rivals.
The last time the Beacons skated away with a victory over the Cadets was in 2010 when they earned a 2-1 victory in the Beacons Ice Arena. UMass' only win in Vermont came in the first-ever meeting between the two squads. In that contest, the Beacons blanked Norwich 9-0.
Since the 2-1 win, the Cadets have won eight straight over the Beacons, but in last season's semi-final game, the Beacons nearly ended that streak. In perhaps their best game of the year by far, the Beacons nearly upset the Cadets. After Norwich took a 1-0 lead, the Beacons would tie the score at 1-1 with Samantha Fallon (Pembroke, Mass.) finding the back of the next with less than two minutes to play in regulation. However it was the Cadets who pulled out the win in OT, with Tori Charron scoring the game-winner.
Moe Bradley (Swampscott, Mass.) was solid from start to finish, in what would solidify her spot as an All-Region honoree. Bradley registered 26 saves in the contest, just one week after giving the Beacons their first-ever postseason shutout when they blanked Manhattanville, 3-0.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
Last Saturday, UMass once again pulled off the upset of the tournament as they defeated familiar quarterfinal foe Manhattanville College by the final of 3-2. Kristen Embrey (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) scored the game-winning power-play goal at 1:18 of the third period to push UMass to their third straight semi-final appearance. Bradley was a wall between the pipes with her 37 saves. Lizzie Aveson (West Covina, Calif.) and Alli Bianchini (Sterling Heights, Mich.) also found the back of the net at 10:22 and 17:51 of the first period respectively.
For the Cadets, they cruised past the University of New England with a 6-0 win. After scoring just two goals through the first 40 minutes, the Cadets offense came alive in the third, scoring four straight. Maki Shuchuk netted a hat-trick in the victory, with all three goals coming in order over an eight minute window. It would take her just nine seconds to score her first and second goals in the third period. Celeste Robert earned the win, her ninth, after making just five saves, Laurie King closed out the third with a mere two stops.
SCOUTING THE BEACONS
For UMass Boston, they will have to play a complete game from start-to-finish on Saturday, if they are to take down the nationally-ranked Cadets. In last Saturday's win over the Valiants, the Beacons rebounded from an early let down, and shutdown Manhattanville for over 38 minutes. In that time, the Beacons received two goals from two newcomers. A shorthanded goal in the first 38 seconds of the third, tied it at 2-2, but with Embrey's decisive power-play tally, UMass showed that they will not go down easy, even when their backs are up against the wall.
Going into Saturday's match-up UMass is ranked 21st in the country in points per game with their 2.73 ppg. Their power-play is tied for 15th alongside ECAC East rival Salve Regina University, with a 20.0% success rate.
Kayla Smith (Woburn, Mass.) has taken over as the Beacons top point earner with 16, following last Saturday's victory. She goes into Saturday contest carrying a team-best 12 assists, to go along with four goals. Fallon remains the Beacons leading goal scorer with eight, and is currently tied for second in points with 14 along with Alyssa Sullivan (Medford, Mass.) and Jane Morrisette (Pembroke, Mass.).
Between the pipes, Bradley pushed her season save percentage back over .900 (.903), following her fourth win of the season against the Valiants. In 746 minutes, Bradley has allowed just over 3.00 goals per game, and has registered a team-best 352 stops.
SCOUTING THE CADETS
The fourth-ranked Cadets enter this year's conference tournament riding a seven-game unbeaten streak, as they look to earn their sixth straight conference title. All four of their losses have come at the hands of nationally-ranked teams, while of their three ties two came against conference opponents (St. Anselm and Southern Maine).
Norwich enters this year's tournament ranked 20th in scoring with their 2.96 goals per game. Defensively they lead the country, allowing a mere 1.23 goals against. They have also posted an impressive 10 shutouts, five of-which were recorded consecutively.
The ECAC East Player of the Year, Kaycie Anderson leads the squad with 26 points and 17 assists. Erin Joyce, who was a First Team All-Conference selection, is tied for the most goals on this year's squad with 11, alongside Shuchuk. The 2015 ECAC East Rookie of the Year, Sarah Schwenzfeier is tied for third on the team with 21 points, which also ranks her tied for 11th in the country in points by a rookie.
King and Robert have anchored the Cadets all season on their way to both earning All-Conference accolades. The duo have allowed just 20 goals against this season. King, is surrendering less than a goal per game, while Robert has allowed just 1.24 goals against, and boasts a 9-2-1 record overall. Going into Saturday, she has made just 203 saves, and owns four of the Cadets 10 shutouts.
Saturday's contest will mark the fourth ECAC East semi-final appearance for head coach Colleen Harris. All-time, Harris is 4-4 in ECAC East Tournament games, and will be facing the Cadets for just the second time in the postseason. Two-time ECAC East Coach of the Year, Mark Bolding, will be looking to lead the Cadets to their sixth straight 20-win season with a victory on Saturday. A three-time AHCA National Coach of the Year, Bolding boasts a record of 15-2 record in ECAC East Tournament games.
DOWN THE ROAD
The winner of Saturday's semi-final game will play in the championship round on Sunday at the Kreitzberg Arena, and will face the winner of #2 Salve Regina University and #4 Castleton State College. The winner of Sunday's championship will receive the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. If the Beacons earn the victory on Saturday it would mark their first-ever title game appearance, while for the Cadets it will be their seventh consecutive appearance.