COLCHESTER, Vt. - The Saint Michael's College men's ice hockey team was selected second among six schools in the Northeast-10 Conference when the league released its preseason coaches' poll on Friday. The Purple Knights received 22 points, including three first-place votes, to trail Saint Anselm College by only one point. The Hawks earned the other three first-place votes.
Saint Michael's is the three-time defending NE10 Championship runner-up, as the 2016 tournament finale was not played. Both the Purple Knights and Saint Anselm tied for the league's regular-season crown at 4-1 last year before losing one-goal decisions in the postseason to eventual champion Assumption College, including Saint Michael's falling 3-2 in overtime during the title game. The Purple Knights lost twice to the Hawks last season, falling 4-0 on Nov. 12 in Manchester, N.H., before suffering a 2-1 setback at Cairns Arena on Jan. 20.
The Purple and Gold, which went 9-16-2 overall last season, has combined with Saint Anselm to win 14 of the league's 17 postseason crowns. After a 5-1-2 mid-season stretch put the squad at 7-8-2, Saint Michael's downed Stonehill College twice down the stretch en route to advancing to the NE10 title game, including picking up a 4-1 semifinal victory on Feb. 18. As the No. 2 seed, the Purple Knights hosted No. 4 Assumption for the championship.
After being affiliated with either the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) or the New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) each year since being reestablished as a varsity program in 1982-83, the Purple Knights are now solely members of the NE10 - they had held dual membership since 1999-2000 - and will take on each of their six league counterparts three times this winter. In addition to facing Assumption, Saint Anselm, Stonehill, Franklin Pierce University and Southern New Hampshire University during conference play, Saint Michael's has three games with NE10 scheduling partner Post University, which will not compete in the postseason.
Senior Eric Salzillo (Johnston, R.I./Boston Bandits) and junior Sam D'Antuono (Hingham, Mass./Dexter School) both landed NE10 All-Conference first team honors last winter, when Salzillo registered 10 goals and 14 assists and D'Antuono had nine tallies and 16 helpers. Sophomore defenseman William Santangeli (Oakville, Ontario/Saint Mark's School) landed on the NE10 All-Rookie Team, posting seven points in 27 games, while junior Chris Johnson (Duxbury, Mass./Pomfret School) recorded a .904 save percentage and a 3.59 goals-against average. He was fourth among all NCAA Division II/III goalies with 828 saves, averaging 33.1 per game.
The Purple Knights begin their sixth season under head coach Damian DiGiulian tonight at the State University of New York at Potsdam at 7 p.m. before hosting the Bears tomorrow at 4 p.m.