Men's quarterfinal previews: right half of the bracket

Compiled by D3hockey.com staff --

Four teams remain on the right side of the bracket and two trips to the Frozen Four are on the line as the West Region features a rematch of a 2016 quarterfinal while the East Region brings a mix of old and new to the table.

In the West, the number one regional seed St. Norbert hosts Augsburg in a repeat of a 2016 quarterfinal in which the Green Knights topped the Auggies, 6-1. St. Norbert is seeking its second consecutive and 11th overall trip to the Frozen Four, while Augsburg is hunting for its third Frozen Four appearance and first since 1998.

In the East, 2015 national champion Trinity welcomes upstart Endicott in what will be the first ever meetings between the teams. The Bantams are gunning for their third Frozen Four while Endicott is looking to make its first in what is its first NCAA tournament appearance.

 

Game previews:

No. 3 ST. NORBERT GREEN KNIGHTS (21-5-1)

 

 

vs.

No. 10 AUGSBURG AUGGIES (17-4-6)

 

 

 

 

 

When: Saturday, March 18; 7 p.m. CT

Where: Cornerstone Community Center; Ashwaubenon, Wis.


About St. Norbert:
Make it another year and another NCAA tournament appearance for the defending national runner-ups. This year's tournament berth marks the 17th all-time for the Green Knights, all of which have come since 1997. St. Norbert is 27-12-1 all-time in NCAA tournament play.

While St. Norbert played itself into a second place regular season finish in the NCHA, it won its way into this year's field with a 3-2 come-from-behind win over Adrian in the league's Harris Cup Finals.

Sophomore goaltender T.J. Black leads the nation in goals-against-average (1.14) and shutouts (6), and is tied for second in save percentage (.944).
Photo: Larry Radloff for d3photography.com

As is often the case with the Green Knights, much of this season's success has come on the strength of its defense, particularly the play of sophomore goaltender T.J. Black. After splitting time earlier in the season, Black commandeered the starting role and has been nothing short of lights out as he currently boasts a 16-2-1 record, 1.14 goals-against-average, and .944 save percentage. Black's six shutouts are the most in the nation, his goals-against-average also ranks No. 1, and his save percentage is tied for second.

The Green Knights' scoring defense also ranks number one in the country and has conceded a mere 1.56 goals per night. Key contributors on the blue line include senior Blake Thompson (3-8-11), junior Sean Campbell (7-7-14) and sophomore Tyler Andrews (2-6-8).

The St. Norbert offense is tied for 14th-most prolific in the country and has posted 3.81 goals per game. Senior forward Noah Nelson (8-19-27) leads the team in scoring, while junior Tanner Froese (13-9-22) checks in second and leads the team in goals. Senior Pijus Rulevičius (5-17-22), sophomore Riley Christensen (11-9-20) and sophomore Roman Uchyn (10-9-19) also have figured prominently in a balanced scoring attack that features nine skaters who have notched at least 14 points on the year.

Overall the Green Knights are poised to make their 11th trip to the Frozen Four, and if they can repeat last years 6-1 quarterfinal win over Augsburg that's exactly where they will be headed. If they do again advance, expect top-flight goaltending and a traditionally stifling defense to lead the way.


About Augsburg:
The second-place regular season MIAC finishers showed up big in the postseason as they scored a 5-4 overtime win over St. Mary's in the league semifinals before upending St. Thomas, 3-2, in the championship game.

The win handed the Auggies their second straight MIAC playoff championship and second straight NCAA tournament appearance. The Auggies have qualified for the NCAAs on three previous occasions and are 3-5-1 all-time in tournament play.

Sophomore forward Eric Brenk leads the Auggies in goals (16) and power play goals (5).
Photo: Ryan Coleman for d3photography.com

Augsburg has lost just once since January 14, thanks in large part to an offense that has rolled up 55 goals in the 12-game stretch, which has been good for 4.58 goals per game. Like St. Norbert, the Auggies offer up a very balanced group of forwards and are led by junior Nate Flynn (15-14-29), senior Corbin Chapman (11-15-26), and a pair of sophomores in Eric Brenk (16-7-23) and Luke Dietsch (9-12-21). All told the Auggies boast 15 skaters who have notched at least ten points on the year.

Defensively, things have solidified down the stretch thanks to the emergence of sophomore netminder Nick Schmit, who has appeared in 14 games this season but picked up the start in both of Augsburg's MIAC playoff wins. Schmit holds a 10-1-2 record with a 2.95 goals-against-average and .935 save percentage.

The Auggies also pick up solid contributions from a group of blueliners, though their team defense ranks just 25th in the country, the lowest of all remaining tournament teams. Senior Rory Vesel (1-18-19) and juniors Max Pernhem (4-11-15), Eli May (2-12-14) and Will Peterson (5-7-12) have also shown an ability to contribute at the offensive end.

Last year's NCAA tournament trip to St. Norbert didn't go so well for the Auggies, but this year's group appears to match-up well with the Green Knights. With a balanced offensive attack, good team speed and emergent goaltending, Augsburg is certainly expecting a better showing this time around and it's quite likely that's what it will get. But, will it be enough to pull out a win at one of the toughest places in Division III in which to do so?


About the series: This weekend's contest will mark the 18th meeting between Augsburg and St. Norbert. The Auggies hold a 10-6-1 edge in the series but the Green Knights are 5-1-1 against the Auggies since Tim Coghlin took over in 1993-94. In the most recent meeting, St. Norbert pulled away for a 6-1 win in the 2016 NCAA tournament quarterfinals.

 

 

No. 8 TRINITY BANTAMS

 

vs.

No. 7 ENDICOTT GULLS (24-3-2)

 

 

 

 

 

When: Saturday, March 18; 7 p.m. ET

Where: Koeppel Community Sports Center; Hartford, Conn.


About Trinity: On the heels of their second straight NESCAC championship the Bantams entered the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive and sixth overall time. While Trinity dropped a first round game to UMass Boston last year, it reached the pinnacle of Division III in 2015 when it topped UW-Stevens Point to win the first and only national title in program history.

Trinity's 4-1 opening round win over Plattsburgh State moved the Bantams one step closer to their second national title.
Photo: Hans Gulset

The Bantams are in the midst of an nine-game win and one step closer to another national championship as they dropped Plattsburgh State, 4-1, in an opening round game last Saturday.

Known for its dynamic and explosive offense, this year has proved to be no exception as the Bantams rank among the top ten in the nation in scoring and feature a forward group still full of names that helped fuel the 2015 title run.

Senior Sean Orlando (15-18-33) leads the team in scoring, while juniors Tyler Whitney (12-20-32) and Anthony Sabitsky (16-15-31), along with senior Ryan Cole (13-17-30) have also hit the 30-point mark this year.

Not to be lost in the reputation of the Trinity offense is the play of its defense this season as it has been superb. Ranked fourth in the nation and conceding just 1.85 goals per game, much of the credit can go to junior goaltender Alex Morin (25gp, 16-6-3, 1.80, .930), while a defensive group featuring freshman Liam Feeney (5-15-20) and seniors T.J. Sherman (1-6-7) and Samuel Johnson (0-7-7) has performed admirably.

Overall, the Bantams have the tools to make a run a what would be their third Frozen Four as they are a club that offers up no discernable weaknesses. Seeking their second national title, they also get the benefit of having the road run through their home rink -- though Saturday's quarterfinal against Endicott comes against one of the hottest teams in the nation.


About Endicott: Perhaps the biggest surprise story in the nation this year, the Gulls have piled up 24 wins en route to the CCC regular season and postseason championships. The latter earned the program its first-ever NCAA tournament bid in what is only its second year of existence.

Endicott hit last weekend's first round contest at Hobart on the heels of an 11-game win streak, which has now become 12 after a Jason Kalinowski goal at 10:50 of the third period broke a 3-3 deadlock and lifted the Gulls to the win. The win marked the first NCAA tournament win for a ECACNE or CCC team since Wentworth topped Plymouth State, 3-1, in a 2012 first round contest.

Sophomore forward Cam Bleck leads Endicott in goals (19) and is second in points (40).
Photo: Endicott Athletics

Offense has been the name of the game for the Gulls this year as their 4.97 goals per game rank No. 1 in the nation. At forward, sophomore Tommy Besinger (18-31-49) leads the team and is second in the nation in scoring, while sophomore Cam Bleck (21-19-40), freshman Kalinowski (13-24-37) and sophomore Ross Olsson (17-18-35) all also have hit the 30-point mark.

Additionally, Endicott boasts two others two have scored at least 20 points and seven more who have hit double digits.

Sophomore defenseman Logan Day (15-23-38) ranks third on the team in scoring and leads a group of blueliners, including junior Connor Costello (2-11-13), sophomore Carter Horowitz (3-7-10), and a pair of freshman in Bump Lisk (0-7-7) and Michael Heidkamp (0-5-5). The group has proven more than serviceable on the back end as Endicott's 1.97 goals-allowed-per-game stands as the sixth-fewest in the country.

In goal, it's been all sophomore Kevin Aldridge since day one this season as the sophomore has appeared in 26 games, holds a 21-3-2 record, 2.02 goals-against-average and .935 save percentage. Additionally, Aldridge has posted four shutouts and he's the only goaltender in the country to have notched 20 or more wins.

The one knock on Endicott all season has been that it plays in a conference that is perceived to be weaker, but between an season opening tie at Norwich, a win over Neumann, and last week's first round win at Hobart, the Gulls have proven they have the moxie to hang with anyone in the nation. But, can they win one more to become the first perceived Cinderella the Frozen Four will have seen in a long, long time?


About series: Saturday's quarterfinal meeting between Trinity and Endicott will be the first between the schools.

 

 

~

Friday, Mar. 24: All times Eastern
M:
Final
Trinity (Conn.) 3, at St. Norbert 2
Box Score Recap
M:
Final - OT
at Norwich 5, Adrian 4
Box Score
Friday, Mar. 24: All times Eastern
M:
Final - OT
at Norwich 5, Adrian 4
Box Score
M:
Final
Trinity (Conn.) 3, at St. Norbert 2
Box Score Recap
No contests today.