SO. BURLINGTON, Vt. – The two most prolific men's hockey programs in the Northeast-10 Conference will converge on C. Douglas Cairns Arena Saturday evening at 7 p.m., just three miles south of the Saint Michael's College campus. The visiting Saint Anselm College looks to pull off its second straight postseason upset—this time against the host Purple Knights—to win its ninth all-time NE-10 Championship.
Saint Anselm, which earned the #3-seed for this year's tournament, upset #2 Stonehill at Foxboro Sports Center in last weekend's semifinal round, 3-1. Saint Michael's, meanwhile, disposed of #4-seed Assumption, 4-1, on its home ice to earn a berth to this Saturday's Championship finale.
SCOUTING THE HAWKS
Saint Anselm finished the season in third place in the Northeast-10 Conference standings with a 10-13-3 overall record and a 2-1-2 mark in league contests. The Hawks, like Saint Michael's, play a dual-conference schedule in the Eastern College Athletic Conference East division, where they skated to a 7-9-2 record that tied them for fourth place.
Senior Sean Jenkins (Boston, Mass.) leads the team offensively and ranked ninth in the NE-10 Conference with 20 points on the season, coming off seven goals and a team-high 13 assists. Junior Bryan Sullivan (Burlington, Mass.) has racked up a team-high nine goals to go with eight assists while senior Johnny Daniels (Andover, Mass.) has eight goals and eight assists for 16 points in his final season on the Hilltop. Jenkins and Daniels were also named to the All-NE-10 Second Team in last week's release from the league offices.
Junior Tyler Estee (Bow, N.H.) was named NE-10 Defender of the Year this season, leading a Hawks defense that recorded a .950 kill percentage which led the league and was 10th best in the country. Special teams—particularly on the defensive side of the ice—have been a bright spot for the Hawks all season, also ranking second in the league with a plus-six net that includes two short-handed goals scored in league action. The return of senior captain defenseman Matt Buckley (Canton, Mass.), who midway through the season missed several games due to injury, has also been integral to the Hawks' late season surge, as Saint Anselm is 4-1-1 in the month of February.
Freshman Shane Joyce (Pembroke, Mass.) has carried much of the Hawks' goaltending duties in his rookie season and was named to the All-NE-10 Rookie Team, as well as a Second Team nominee, last week. He finished second in the league with a 1.95 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage, starting all five in-league matchups. Overall, he has amassed a season record of 10-9-3 through last weekend's victory.
SCOUTING THE PURPLE KNIGHTS
Saint Michael's won the coin flip to earn the top seed for the 2015 tournament after posting a 3-0-2 NE-10 record and tying Stonehill atop the league standings. However, the Purple Knights finished below Saint Anselm in the ECAC East standings, amassing a 5-12-1 record and an eighth place finish in that league.
Senior AJ Pieprzak is the newly crowned NE-10 Player of the Year, leading the league with 2.20 points per game on average. Overall, he tallied 12 goals and 20 assists that ranked fourth and second among NE-10 individuals, respectively, and his 32 points doubled any of his teammates' individual outputs. The senior needs six points in Saturday's career finale to reach the century mark with 41 goals and 53 career assists through 99 games.
Senior goaltender Dave Donzanti has logged over 1,200 minutes in goal for Saint Michael's, recording a season record of 9-10-2 between the pipes. Through 22 appearances this season, he has a .881 save percentage and a goals-against average of 3.47 to go with three shutouts on the year.
RECENT TOURNAMENT SUCCESS/SERIES HISTORY
The Saint Anselm men's hockey team has plenty of history on its side heading into this weekend's NE-10 Conference Championship matchup. The Hawks have won eight titles—the most of anyone else in the league. Saint Anselm has now also appeared in 14 of 16 possible championship games, thus far owning an 8-5 record on center stage.
Saint Michael's, which will appear in its eighth title bout and boasts a 5-2 record in championship matches, can overtake Saint Anselm in overall tournament win percentage with a head-to-head win Saturday evening on its home ice. Entering Saturday, the Purple Knights are 19-8 (.704) all-time in the postseason, while the Hawks bring a 22-9 all-time NE-10 tournament record (.710) into the matchup.
While Saint Anselm leads the all-time series between the two teams 15-9-3, the Purple Knights own a commanding 4-1 record in NE-10 championship games against Saint Anselm. The Hawks most recently snapped a four-title-game winless streak against their league rival back in 2011 with a resounding 7-4 win.
Saint Anselm recorded a 1-0-1 record against the Purple Knights this season, skating to a 4-4 tie in late November before posting a dominant 5-1 performance up in South Burlington just over a month ago.