By Mike Zhe
Once again, it looks like the road to the ECAC East title will pass through Northfield, Vt.
Norwich became the first team in New England to clinch first place in its league, which it did by beating Castleton State (6-1) and Skidmore (4-3) at home over the weekend. It’s the 15th straight regular-season title for the Cadets (20-2, 15-1 ECAC East).
After this weekend, it should know its quarterfinal opponent – seemingly annual dance partner University of New England or Southern Maine, who entered this week tied for last place with eight points.
It was a big weekend for freshman forward Dean Niezgoda (Brewster, Mass.), who notched a goal and an assist against Castleton and came back the next night with two goals against Skidmore.
And, while it was the hard-fought win over Skidmore that clinched first place, it took a gentle slap in the face one night earlier to get the weekend jump-started for the Cadets. A shorthanded goal by Josh Harris staked Castleton to an early 1-0 lead before Norwich responded by scoring six straight times.
“We came out a little flatter than we wanted to,” senior winger Kyle Thomas (Waltham, Mass.) told WCAX-TV. “I think the first goal really woke us up; the shorthanded one really got us going.”
Thomas scored a pair of goals in the game, bringing his season totals to 10-12-22 after a slow start, production-wise. He is one of five forwards (Colin Mulvey, Troy Allan, Travis Janke, Pier-Olivier Cotnoir) averaging better than a point per game. Shane Gorman (Trumbull, Conn.) added a goal and two assists Friday.
The Cadets close out the regular season with arguably their toughest road trip of the season, playing at third-place Babson on Friday and visiting second-place UMass-Boston on Saturday.
Player of the Week
Josh Geary, sr., F, St. Michael’s
Wellesley, Mass., product had four goals and assist on the weekend, scoring two of those goals in 5-4 overtime win against Castleton.
Games of the Week
Williams at Amherst, Friday
This one could go a long way in determining who grabs that No. 2 seed behind Bowdoin for the NESCAC tournament.
New England Division 3 Power Rankings
1. Norwich (20-2, 15-1 ECAC East)
Only five players in Division 3 have more goals than Mulvey’s (Worcester, Mass.) 17.
2. Bowdoin (17-2-2, 11-2-2 NESCAC)
Another meeting with Wesleyan, another struggle for the Polar Bears in a 3-3 tie. One team that Bowdoin might want to sidestep in the NESCAC tournament.
3. Amherst (14-5-3, 10-4-2 NESCAC)
Typical shutdown weekend for Lord Jeffs in wins over Conn. College (4-2) and Tufts (6-1), even if those wins had to wait until Sunday and Monday.
4. UMass-Boston (17-4-2, 10-4-2 ECAC East)
The waiting is the hardest part? Eight-game win streak snapped with 6-3 loss at Southern Maine, a game delayed two days by storm. Peter MacIntyre (Norfolk, Mass.) scored two goals for the third straight game.
5. Williams (13-6-3, 10-4--2 NESCAC)
Ephmen split a home-and-home with Middlebury, getting two goals from John Wickman in 6-2 win on home ice Friday.
6. Plymouth State (16-6, 12-3 MASCAC)
Freshman Andrew Wigg figured in every goal and Jack Astedt stopped 28 saves (for a school-record eighth career shutout) as Panthers blanked Salem State on Monday, 3-0, and moved closer to second straight regular-season title in the MASCAC.
7. Trinity (12-5-3, 9-3-3 NESCAC)
Sophomore Jackson Brewer’s (Newton, Mass.) hat trick led the way in 7-2 win over Colby, the Bantams’ only action of the weekend.
8. Babson (13-6-4, 9-5-2 ECAC East)
Beavers needed third-period goalie from Shayne Anderson (Dorchester, Mass.) and Mike Driscoll (Milton, Mass.) to beat University of New England, after watching early 4-0 lead slip away.
9. Wentworth (13-8-2, 9-2-1 ECAC Northeast)
This is finally starting to look like the Wentworth team we thought we’d be seeing at the start of the season. Six wins and a tie in last eight games.
10. Westfield State (13-6-2, 9-4-2 MASCAC)
Owls must run a Salem State/UMass-Dartmouth/Fitchburg State gauntlet this week to show they’re worthy of second place in the league.