By Warren Kozireski–
Approaching the third week in March, most college hockey teams have ended their seasons and coaches have already held their exit interviews with everyone on the roster. But for six New York State college teams, the dream of a national championship continues this weekend.
At the Division I level, Cornell and Clarkson both head to Lake Placid for the ECAC final four while RIT and Niagara do the same for the last two days of the Atlantic Hockey playoffs at HarborCenter in Buffalo.
Cornell is 19-9-4 after defeating Union in three games during their quarterfinal series. Nationally ranked tenth in the nation, the Big Red take ECAC Defensive Defenseman of the Year Matt Nuttle of Marilla plus New York Rangers prospect and the team’s third forward to earn First Team All-Conference honors in 32 years in sophomore Morgan Barron to a 4pm semi-final tilt with Brown.
The other semi-final pits the ninth ranked and 24-10-2 Golden Knights against Harvard. Clarkson is led by top-line forwards Nico Sturm (ECAC Hockey’s Best Defensive Forward and First Team All-Conference) and Haralds Egle with junior goaltender Jake Kielly’s sub 2.00 goals against average.
RIT survived a three-game quarterfinal victory at Sacred Heart to earn their way into the AHA final four where they will battle Niagara in the second semi-final game.
The Tigers, trying for their third conference championship in the past five year, are led by senior forwards Abbott Girduckis (Second Team pick) with Erik Brown and junior defenseman Adam Brubacher (both Third Team). They are 2-1-1 against the Purple Eagles this season with both wins coming on the road.
Niagara, winners of five of their last six games including a three-game first round playoff win over rival Canisius and a two-game sweep at Air Force in the quarterfinals, is led by Third Team All-Conference picks Noah Delmas on defense and Ludwig Stenlund up front. The latter led the nation’s freshman in scoring with 22 goals and 41 points in 39 games.
In Division III, 24-1-2 and second ranked nationally Geneseo won the SUNYAC regular season crown before overwhelming Manhattanville in the NCAA quarterfinals 8-2 last weekend. Led by the nation’s top two scorers in Andrew Romano and Conlan Keenan (Penfield) along with national shutout record setter Devin McDonald (12) in net, the Knights will battle Northeast Hockey Conference playoff champ Norwich in the first national semi-final Friday night at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
The other semifinal pits 21-7-2 and at-large bid recipient Hobart against top-ranked and undefeated host Wisconsin-Stevens Point. The Statesmen lost 2-1 to Norwich in the conference championship game—their only loss over the last 12 games—before defeating Plymouth State at home and Oswego State on the road in one-goal wins. Freshman goaltender Liam Lascelle took over the net late in the season for the Statesmen while top-liners Jonas Toupal and Zach Sternbach are among a balanced scoring attack that featured nine players with 15 or more points.