COLCHESTER, Vt. - The Saint Michael's College men's ice hockey team heads into the Northeast-10 Conference Championship as the No. 2 seed, taking on No. 3 Assumption College on Saturday during a semifinal at 4 p.m. at Cairns Arena in South Burlington. The Purple Knights seek their sixth NE10 postseason crown while playing a rematch of last year's title game, which the Greyhounds won, 3-2 in overtime.
All tickets are $6 for adults, $4 for senior citizens and children, and $1 for students at NE10 schools with a valid ID. The first 300 Saint Michael's students with a valid ID will be admitted for free thanks to the College's Student Activities Office and Student Association. Backpacks and private beverage containers will not be permitted by any fans, and re-entry will not be allowed.
During its first season playing solely as a member of the NE10, Saint Michael's wrapped up the regular season 14-9-2, its best mark since 1998-99, while going 9-5-1 in league play. The Purple and Gold went 8-3-1 down the stretch while finishing off season series victories over five squads. Top-seeded Saint Anselm and No. 4 Southern New Hampshire University square off in the other semifinal, with the winners meeting for the crown on March 3 at the home of the highest remaining seed.
The Purple Knights advanced to the NE10 Championship final each of the past three times they 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 18-7-1 at home during postseason play, including 12-5 since moving into Cairns Arena, where the Purple Knights are 7-1 in semifinals. Saint Michael's won NE10 Championships in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008 and 2009.
Saint Michael's has met Assumption seven times in postseason play, with the Purple Knights going 4-3, including 3-2 at Cairns Arena after last year's title game setback. The Purple and Gold won this year's regular-season series, 2-1, with the home team losing every game. The Greyhounds won 4-2 in Cairns Arena on Dec. 2 before Saint Michael's swept a weekend set in Worcester, Mass., on Jan. 12-13, 2-0 and 4-3. Sophomore Tim Decker (Liverpool, N.Y./Canterbury School) worked a 24-save shutout in the opener before senior Keegan Finn's (Yarmouth, Mass./Bay State Breakers) winner with 3:04 left completed a rally from two goals down in game two.
While each of the Purple Knights' top five 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 Decker and junior Chris Johnson (Duxbury, Mass./Pomfret School) has proven effective, with Saint Michael's second in the league in scoring defense (2.52). Both are tied for second in the NE10 in wins (7), Decker is fourth in save percentage (.921) and sixth in goals-against average (2.45), while Johnson is fifth in both save percentage (.920) and GAA (2.42).
Senior Eric Salzillo (Johnston, R.I./Boston Bandits) leads the team with 21 points while registering 10 goals, 11 assists, 239 faceoff victories and a 57.3 percent win rate. Classmate Sam Finkelstein (South Burlington, Vt./Rice Memorial Prep) and junior defender Jack Ouellette (Arlington, Mass./Dexter School) are tied for the team lead with 12 assists, and Ouellette has a team-high plus-14 rating while Finkelstein is plus-13. Junior Sam D'Antuono (Hingham, Mass./Dexter School) has 10 goals, 325 faceoff victories and a 59.7 percent winning percentage, while senior defender Nathan Foice's (Essex, Vt./The Winchendon School) 40 blocks pace the squad.