Nichols Athletics --
HARRISVILLE, R.I. – Senior captain Scott Cuthrell scored the game-winning goal early in the second period to help the Nichols College men's ice hockey program score a 3-1 win over Fitchburg State in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday night at Levy Rink.
Sophomore Vincent Crivello scored in the first period and senior Chris Deming sealed the win with an empty-netter late in the third as the Bison (18-8-3) won the first NCAA Tournament game in program history. With the win, they advance to face Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) regular season champion Salve Regina next Saturday, March 17 at Boss Ice Arena. The men's hockey team also becomes the fifth at Nichols to win an NCAA Tournament contest, joining men's and women's tennis, men's basketball, and men's soccer.
The Bison outshot the Falcons 16-3 in the opening stanza and led 1-0 following Crivello's 15th tally of the season. Junior defenseman T.J. Roche slid the puck from the left circle to Crivello, who was parked at the right post for the one-timer.
Nichols continued to pepper Fitchburg State frshman goalie Brian McGrath with shots in the second, but he turned aside all 19 he faced to keep his team in the game. The Falcons (18-7-3) best chance to tie the game came midway through the period when Brandon Ecklund got behind the Nichols defense and broke in alone on Brennen, but he buried his shot into the chest of the senior netminder.
In the third, junior Ian Spencer dumped the puck from the red line into the far corner. It was retrieved by classmate Matthew Menta and centered to Cuthrell, who beat McGrath to the glove side. Less than five minutes later, sophomore Chris Vicario banged home a rebound off a point shot by junior Nick Dinicola to cut the NC lead in half at 10:38. With McGrath on the bench for the extra attacker late in the third, Deming intercepted a pass and sent the puck from his own end into the empty net with 58 seconds on the clock.
McGrath finished the night with 39 saves while Brennen was credited with 18 saves to record his 12th win of the season.
Saturday's meeting marked the 60th all-time meeting between these two longstanding Worcester-area rivals and first since March 4, 2009 when they met in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Northeast Semifinals, a 4-2 win by the Bison. While the Falcons continue to lead the series 41-16-3, the Bison have now won the last four and are 6-1-1 in the last seven meetings.
"This was what we expected. Fitchburg works and competes very hard. They are well-coached and were excited and hungry to play with this being their first NCAA Tournament. It came down to execution. It wasn't pretty at times, but the guys found a way. At this time of the year, it's survive and advance and that's what you have to do. We got it done and I'm proud of the guys." – Nichols head coach Parker Burgess
"The team has bought into the fact that it doesn't matter where we play. As long as we play our game and play together, there is nobody in the country that can stop us. We're proving that right now. Our confidence has never been higher and there is no reason for it not to be. We have a 1-0 mentality and that will carry over to next week." –Senior captain Scott Cuthrell, on the team's playoff success
"It was frustrating for sure. This group has faced a lot of adversity since I've been at Nichols, but our mantra has been to stay nice and calm. Our mentality is 'next shift, we're going to get them.'" –Sophomore Vincent Crivello, on outshooting the Falcons but not being able to pad the team's lead.