Maine doesn’t get to host a lot of national championship tournaments. That changes Friday and Saturday, as the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston hosts the final four of the NCAA Division III men’s ice hockey tournament.
“The place is just buzzing,” said Jim Cain, general manager of the Colisee. “This is important for the state. It’s important for the local area. It’s great for hockey and it’s great for the local economy.”
The first semifinal is between Geneseo State and St. Norbert College, and begins at 4 p.m., Friday. At 7:30 p.m., Friday, Oswego State takes on Wisconsin-Stevens Point in the other semifinal. The two winners meet for the national championship at 7 p.m., Saturday.
“There should be a lot of the hockey faithful from the Augusta area coming down to this,” Cain said.
Waterville Senior High School graduate Matt Lee is a freshman defenseman for Geneseo. Lee had a shoulder injury and then a broken leg, and was limited to three games this season. He scored a goal in a 3-2 victory over Neumann on Jan. 16.
Cain said he expects the biggest crowds to be at the night games Friday and Saturday. According to the Colisee’s website, the building seats approximately 3,682 for hockey.
“For Game 1, it will be light, because people will still be at work,” Cain said. “The night game will be over 3,000, and Saturday night will probably sell out.
“If we are fortunate, we’ll sell out on Friday night. The afternoon game is what it is — it’s an afternoon game. There’s more than 1,500 tickets sold for it already, so maybe my guess is way too low.”
Here’s a look at how each of the four teams stack up:
Geneseo (N.Y.) State (23-6-0) had never won an NCAA tournament game before this season. The Knights have won nine of their last 10 games, and incredibly, six of those nine wins were by a score of 3-2. The only loss in that stretch was a 7-6 setback to Oswego in the conference championship game. Geneseo defeated Oswego twice during the regular season, by scores of 7-4 and 3-2.
In addition to Lee, Geneseo has another Maine connection with freshman Connor Anthoine of Lewiston. Anthoine has two goals and eight assists in 26 games this season.
Geneseo has five double-digit goal-scorers, led by Tyler Bricker and Zachary Vit with 18 apiece. Eleven different players have at least 10 assists. Sophomore Nick Horrigan has taken over as the starting goalie and carries a 14-10 record, a 2.19 goals-against average, and a .930 save percentage to Lewiston.
St. Norbert (26-3-1), located in De Pere, Wis., has won three of the last six Division III national championships, and is playing in the final four for the ninth time in 12 years. This season, the Green Knights have out-shot their opponents by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, and their domination is especially evident on special teams. St. Norbert has cored 39 power-play goals and allowed 10.
The Green Knights come to Maine with a nine-game winning streak in which they’ve outscored their opponents, 48-5. Goalie David Jacobson has eye-popping season numbers: 24-1-1, 1.24 GAA, a .935 save percentage.
Six players for St. Norbert are averaging more than a point per game, led by Cullen Bradshaw (15 goals, 25 assists, 40 points), Mason Baptista (11-26-37) and Erik Cooper (15-20-35). The top goal-scorers are Joe Perry (21-12-33) and Michael Hill (18-13-31).
Oswego (N.Y.) State (22-6-2) is in the national semifinals for the fifth consecutive year, but this is a team with heavy contributions from freshmen. The top two scorers, Matt Galati and Alex Botten, are both freshmen, as is No. 1 goalie Matt Zawadski. Along with that, Oswego has two seniors on its roster.
The Lakers needed some dramatics to extend their season last Thursday, as they trailed Bowdoin 3-1 in the third period before rallying to win, 4-3. Of Oswego’s six losses, four were by a single goal.
Galati (24-13-37) is the big scorer for Oswego, with help from Botten (10-24-34), and Mike Montagna (12-18-30). In goal, Zawadski (15-2-2, 2.16 GAA, four shutouts) is coming off a 3-0 shutout of Babson.
Wisconsin-Stevens Point (21-5-2) has been able to play with everyone on its schedule this season. Four of those five losses were by one goal, and in the one two-goal loss, the Pointers still took seven more shots than their opponents. And if you’re wondering about strength of schedule, the Pointers played St. Norbert to a 2-2 tie. Still, this is the Pointers’ first appearance in the frozen four since 1998.
Garrett Ladd (19-22-41) leads the Pointers in scoring, but this is a team that spreads it around. They’re coming off a 3-0 win over St. Thomas in which nine different players each got one point ad Alex Kromm’s fifth goal of the season was the game-winner. Goalie Brandon Jaeger (19-5-1, 1.92 GAA), has stats in line with the other three starting goalies in the final four. A nice bit of trivia: Jaeger’s father is named Mick.