COLCHESTER, Vt. - By virtue of its overtime victory in Saturday's Northeast-10 Conference Championship semifinal, the second-seeded Saint Michael's College men's ice hockey team prepares to face No. 1 Saint Anselm College on Saturday in the title game at 3:30 p.m. at Sullivan Arena in Manchester, N.H.
All tickets are $6 for adults, $4 for senior citizens and children, and $1 for students at NE10 schools with a valid ID. A free webcast will be provided through Pack Network, accessible via SMCAthletics.com.
The Purple Knights seek their sixth NE10 postseason crown, having claimed titles in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008 and 2009. Each of those first four came thanks to victories over the Hawks, with the initial three coming by one goal apiece, as the 2002 and 2003 contests were decided in overtime. The teams will meet in the postseason for the 10th time in 19 years, including for the seventh time in a championship bout, most recently in 2015. Saint Anselm holds a 5-4 edge, while six of the meetings were decided by one goal.
During its first season playing solely as a member of the NE10, Saint Michael's is 15-9-2, its best mark since 1998-99, after going 9-5-1 in league play. The Purple and Gold is 9-3-1 since Jan. 12, including downing No. 3 Assumption College, 6-5, on junior Sam D'Antuono's (Hingham, Mass./Dexter School) overtime winner - his second goal of the game - during Saturday's semifinal before a sold-out Cairns Arena.
The Hawks have won seven in a row, last losing on Feb. 2, a 2-1 setback at the hands of Saint Michael's. They knocked off No. 4 Southern New Hampshire University, 3-1, in the other Saturday semifinal. While Saint Anselm has a 9-4 record at home, Saint Michael's is a league-best 9-2-2 on the road. The Purple Knights last won 10 games away from home in 1985-86.
Saint Anselm, which lost the three-game regular-season series, 2-1, is 16-9-1 after going 11-4 in NE10 play to top the league. Five different players scored in the Purple Knights' 5-1 win in Manchester on Nov. 3 before the teams split the Feb. 2-3 series. Junior Chris Johnson (Duxbury, Mass./Pomfret School) made 39 saves in the opening victory, but the Hawks scored twice in the final 9:13 to take a 4-2 win during the series finale.
The Purple and Gold has now advanced to the NE10 Championship final each of the past four times it qualified for the postseason, finishing as the runners-up in 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2016-17. Saint Michael's is a postseason qualifier for the 21st time in 23 years, having gone 5-6 on the road during NE10 postseason play. The Purple Knights are 5-4 in title games, going 2-1 on the road, with both wins at Saint Anselm.
While each of the Purple Knights' top six scorers is a veteran, a school-record 11 first-years have scored goals this season, with all 23 skaters who appeared in multiple games netting points, and 21 scoring at least one goal. The Purple and Gold's goaltending platoon of Johnson and sophomore Tim Decker (Liverpool, N.Y./Canterbury School) has proven effective, with Saint Michael's second in the league in scoring defense (2.62). Decker is tied for second in the NE10 in wins (8) and Johnson stands fourth (7), Decker is fourth in goals-against average (2.44) and fifth in save percentage (.921), while Johnson is sixth in GAA (2.61) and save percentage (.915).
Senior Eric Salzillo (Johnston, R.I./Boston Bandits) leads the team with 22 points while registering 11 goals, 11 assists, 253 faceoff victories and a 56.7 percent win rate. Classmate Sam Finkelstein (South Burlington, Vt./Rice Memorial Prep) has 12 assists while a team-best plus-15, and junior defender Jack Ouellette (Arlington, Mass./Dexter School) paces the squad with 13 assists while plus-14. D'Antuono has 12 goals, 345 faceoff victories and a 59.2 percent winning percentage, while senior defender Nathan Foice's (Essex, Vt./The Winchendon School) 45 blocks pace the squad.