Men's ice hockey begins quest of sixth NE10 crown with home semifinal on Saturday

Men's ice hockey begins quest of sixth NE10 crown with home semifinal on Saturday

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 Stonehill 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.

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. A free webcast will be provided by Northeast Sports Network (NSN), at nsnsports.net.

Saint Michael's is 8-15-2 but went 4-1 in the NE10 to tie Saint Anselm College for the regular-season title, the Purple and Gold's sixth regular-season crown, and second in three years. Top-seeded Saint Anselm and No. 4 Assumption College square off in the other semifinal, with the winners meeting for the crown on Feb. 25 at the home of the highest remaining seed.

The Purple Knights advanced to the NE10 Championship final each of the past two times they qualified for the postseason, finishing as the runners-up in 2013-14 and 2014-15. Saint Michael's is a postseason qualifier for the 20th time in 22 years, having gone 17-6-1 at home during postseason play, including 11-4 since moving into Cairns Arena, where the Purple Knights are 6-1 in semifinals.

Saint Michael's has met Stonehill four times in postseason play, winning each match-up by a single goal. Three of those contests were semifinals, including the Purple Knights' 2-1 upset of the top-seeded Skyhawks in Foxboro, Mass., on Feb. 22, 2014, for their only postseason meeting since the Purple and Gold claimed the 2009 title game, 3-2. Saint Michael's won this year's regular-season meeting, 6-4, on Jan. 31 thanks to a five-goal first period. Five players had multiple points, and sophomore Patrick Doherty (Tewksbury, Mass./Middlesex Black Bears) scored the first two goals of his career.

After beginning the season 2-7, Saint Michael's had a 5-1-2 stretch that featured a 4-2 win over 12th-ranked Babson College on Dec. 2 and a 5-5 tie of No. 8 University of Massachusetts at Boston the next night. Down the stretch, the Purple Knights suffered four losses by two goals or fewer since Jan. 20, when they fell just 2-1 in a rematch with Saint Anselm on home ice.

Junior Eric Salzillo (Johnston, R.I./Boston Bandits) has team highs of nine goals and 23 points, while sophomore Sam D'Antuono (Hingham, Mass./Dexter School) narrowly follows with eight and 22. Both win nearly 54 percent of their faceoffs, with D'Antuono racking up more than 300 draw victories, and the duo joins senior defenseman Danny Divis (Media, Pa./Minnesota Wilderness) as team leaders with 14 assists. Senior Josh Dickman (Kapaa, Hawaii/Saint Paul's School) adds eight goals and seven helpers.

Sophomore Chris Johnson (Duxbury, Mass./Pomfret School) enters the postseason with a .902 save percentage and 3.74 goals-against average, but those numbers improve to .923 and 2.61 in NE10 play. With 769 stops this winter, he is closing in on becoming the third Purple Knight ever with 800 during a season. Johnson stands second in NCAA Division II/III in saves - trailing his Stonehill counterpart by just nine stops - while placing fourth nationally in minutes (1,346:48).

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