Ten to watch this weekend
Players to keep your eye on as championship gets under way
The last time that Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y. played host to the NCAA Division III Men's Ice Hockey Championship, it ended with the Cadets of Norwich University winning the 2010 national title with a double-overtime victory against St. Norbert.
That won't happen this time around.
With the Cadets and Green Knights battling in the first of two semifinals on Friday afternoon, the recent meeting that comes to mind is a St. Norbert victory in the national semifinals last March at Ritter Arena in Minneapolis, en route to the Green Knights' second NCAA title.
While the owners of the last two NCAA Championships will meet in one semifinal this weekend in Lake Placid, Oswego is back in the national semifinals for a third consecutive season, and will take on an Amherst team that heads to the Olympic Center looking to bring home the first NCAA title in program history.
As we wait for the action to unfold, here's a quick primer on the players to watch this weekend.
The ECAC East Champions and national leaders in scoring offense (4.75 goals per game) are led by two forwards named to the all-conference first team, Pier-Oliver Cotnoir and Kyle Thomas. A junior from Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, Cotnoir was named ECAC East Player of the Year after scoring 21 goals and handing out 20 assists in 28 games. Thomas, a junior from Waltham, Mass., is the Cadets' leader in points per game, with 37 points in 25 games, and is a semifinalist for the Joe Concannon Award, given annually to the top American-born Division III player in New England. The two players have fond memories of Lake Placid, as Thomas set up Cotnoir for the winning goal two years ago in double overtime against St. Norbert.
Defensively, the Cadets are led by senior Shawn Baker. Baker, a finalist for the Hockey Humanitarian for his work as a volunteer fireman, has been a steadying presence for Norwich throughout his career, and was named to the all-conference second team while leading the Cadets to a third consecutive ECAC East title. Along with freshman Alex Thieda -- one of two Cadets named to the All-Rookie team with forward Doug Lindensmith - Baker leads a strong Norwich blueline corps in front of goalies Parker Carroll (16-1-1, 1.91 GAA, .891 SV%) and Chris Czarnota (8-1-1, 1.14 GAA, .940 SV%) to create Division III's second stingiest defense (1.68 goals per game).
The Green Knights are looking to go back-to-back and make it three championships in five years after winning it all a year ago, with senior forward Johan Ryd leading the way. Ryd, the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association's Player of the Year, has posted career highs in goals (15) and assists (23) this season while leading St. Norbert to a third consecutive NCHA title.
Ryd, a native of Sodertalje, Sweden will wrap up his collegiate career this weekend in Lake Placid, but NCHA All-Rookie selection Cullen Bradshaw has just started what promises to be a productive collegiate career, ranking 13th in the nation in freshman scoring with 30 points (eight goals, 23 assists) in 29 games.
The real impact freshman for the Green Knights, however, is goaltender David Jacobson (17-2-3, 1.58, .933), who was named to the All-NCHA team after posting a 1.98 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in conference play. With All-NCHA selection Reid Campbell leading the blueline corps, the Green Knights boast the nation's No. 5 scoring defense, allowing just 2.14 goals per game.
Like the Cadets and the Green Knights, the Lakers are in the national semifinals for a third consecutive year, led by the junior class that has powered them to the last two. All five Oswego players named to All-SUNYAC teams are from the junior class, and while that means they'll have one more run next year, it also means that they've tasted disappointment twice and hope the third time will be the charm.
All-SUNYAC First Team selection Jon Whitelaw leads the Lakers in both goals (19) and total points (41), while classmate Paul Rodrigues (36 points) leads the team in assists with 23. Rodrigues is one of two Oswego players on the All-SUNYAC Second Team along with defenseman Zack Josepher (4-18--22), one of Division III's top 10 scoring defensemen.
Junior defenseman Taylor Farris (3-8--11) doesn't put up big numbers, but was named to the All-SUNYAC Third Team after helping to steady the Laker defense in front of fellow third-team selection Andrew Ware. Ware, who stepped into the crease after Paul Beckwith was lost to an injury, has posted a 20-3-2 record with a 1.58 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage, more than picking up the slack for Oswego.
The Lord Jeffs are the new kids on the block in Lake Placid, and are banking on the concept that defense wins championships. Goaltender Jonathan La Rose is the NESCAC Player of the Year, and currently leads the nation in save percentage (.943), win percentage (.929) and shutouts (five). He's gone 19-1-1 in his senior season, helping make Amherst the nation's top defensive team (1.64 goals allowed per game), with a healthy dose of help from classmate Mike Baran. Baran, who hails from Duxbury, Mass., was a second team All-NESCAC selection, playing a stout defensive game while posting 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in 25 games. He's a semifinalist for the Joe Concannon Award.
The Lord Jeffs don't score as much as Norwich or Oswego, but they do average 3.86 goals per game. Junior forward Mike Moher (13g, 16a) is the team's top scorer, and one of five players with double-digit goals. Senior forwards Mark Colp and Eddie Effinger, junior Johnny Van Siclen and sophomore Brian Safstrom all have 10 goals for Amherst, and of the 23 skaters who have played for the Lord Jeffs this season, all but three have score a goal.