By Scott Kinville/315 Hockey.
The moment the Utica Pioneers Men’s Hockey Team and their fans have been waiting for is almost here.
On Saturday night, the number one-ranked Pioneers will host the ninth-ranked Nor’Easters of the University of New England (UNE) in a one-game NCAA Division III Men’s Tournament second-round game. That in itself makes this the biggest game of the season so far, but there’s some recent history between these two teams.
Almost exactly a year ago from this game, the Pioneers hosted the Nor’Easters in these exact circumstances. On March 19th, 2022, #9 New England shocked the college hockey world by shutting out the then #2 ranked Pioneers 2-0 – derailing what was expected to be a deep playoff run for Utica. UNE Goaltender Billy Girard IV stopped thirty-eight shots to earn the shutout and Daniel Winslow’s shorthanded goal proved to be the game-winning goal in the massive upset. Both Girard and Winslow will be in uniform for the Nor’Easters when UNE takes the ice this Saturday night.
That was then, however, and this was now. This time around, Utica is the number one team in the nation while New England is currently ranked tenth. The Pioneers have won eighteen consecutive games and rolled through the UCHC Tournament. The Pioneers are the number-one seed in the NCAA Tournament by virtue of their number-one ranking in the national polls. Utica received an opening round bye while New England was awarded an at-large bid to the tournament and defeated number eight Plymouth St 2-0 in the opening round.
After a slow start to the season, Utica has been firing on all cylinders since November. They have the second-best offense in Division III and are ranked seventh on defense. They have five skaters ranked in the top ten in points, defenseman Jayson Dobay leads the nation in assists and forward Remy Parker is tied for second in goals. Sophomore goaltender Bryan Landsberger took over the Pioneers crease from long-time netminder Sean Dickson and has won twenty-five games in his first full season between the pipes.
A big factor in the dominant season the Pioneers have put together is the exceptional improvement of the special teams throughout the season. Through their first eleven games and into the end of the semester break, Utica scored just five power-play goals. After the break, the Pioneers exploded for thirty power play goals over the past seventeen games. They now have the second-best power play in Division III, operating at a 28.9% success rate.
The penalty kill has seen a massive improvement as well. In those first eleven games of the season, the Pioneers surrendered a total of eight power-play goals to their opponents. Over the past seventeen games, a rock-solid Pioneer penalty-killing unit has given up only two goals with opponents on the man advantage. Overall, Utica has an 86.1% success rate on the penalty kill.
No wonder the Pioneers have won eighteen games in a row.
The Nor’Easters are no slouch on offense themselves. They have the fifth-best offense in Division III and are led by the dynamic duo of Ryan Kuzmich and Jake Fuss. Kuzmich is tied for 7th nationally in points with thirty-six and Fuss is tied for ninth with thirty-four points and his twenty-four assists lead the team. Daniel Winslow leads UNE in goals with sixteen.
New England also has a dangerous power play which is operating a 24.8% conversion rate – which is eleventh best in Division III.
Billy Girard IV will most likely be in the net for UNE on Saturday night. He is coming off of a 2-0 shutout victory last Saturday night over #8 Plymouth St. in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Girard has started twenty-three of New England’s twenty-eight games this season and has a record of 20-6-2.
Revenge will be in the air at the Adirondack Bank Center on Saturday night, but more importantly, a trip to the Semifinals of the NCAA Tournament is on the line. Let’s take a look at how the Utica Pioneers and New England Nor’Easters match up against each other.
Utica Pioneers Team Records
- Overall Record: 25-2-1.
- Conference Record: 20-0-0 (UCHC).
- Home Record: 14-0-1.
- National Rank: #1 (USCHO + NCAA).
- Goal Differential: +109.
- Head Coach: Gary Heenan.
New England Nor’Easters Team Records
- Overall Record: 20-6-2.
- Conference Record: 16-4-1 (CCC).
- Away Record: 9-3-1.
- National Rank: #10.
- Goal Differential: +55.
- Head Coach: Kevin Swallow.
Utica Pioneers Team Offense
- Goals For: 161.
- Goals Per Game: 5.8 (2nd in Division III).
- Shots: 1,412.
- Shots Per Game: 50.4.
- Power Play: 28.9% (35 for 121 – 2nd in Division III).
New England Nor’Easters Team Offense
- Goals For: 116.
- Goals Per Game: 4.1 (5th in Division I).
- Shots: 1,010.
- Shots Per Game: 36.1.
- Power Play: 24.8% (29 for 118 – 11th in Division III).
Utica Pioneers Top Five Scorers + Individual Leaders
1.) Mic Curran: 12 goals + 25 assists = 37 points. Curran is tied for 4th in Division III in assists and tied for 6th in points.
2.) Jayson Dobay: 5 goals + 32 assists = 37 points. Dobay is 1st in Division III in assists and tied for 6th in points.
3.) Remy Parker: 23 goals + 12 assists = 35 points. Parker is tied for 2nd in Division III in goals and tied for 8th in points.
4.) Lucas Herrmann: 15 goals + 20 assists = 35 points. Herrmann is tied for 8th in Division III in goals and points and tied for 9th in assists.
5.) Dante Zapata: 12 goals + 21 assists = 33 points. Zapata is tied for 8th in Division III in assists and tied for 10th in points.
- Note: defenseman Kimball Johnson is tied for 8th in Division III in assists with 21 as well.
- Shots Leader: Remy Parker with 143.
- Power Play Goals Leader: Remy Parker with eight. Parker is tied for 3rd in Division III in power-play goals.
- Game Winning Goals Leaders: Remy Parker, Regen Cavanagh, and Justin Allen with three each. They are tied for 4th in Division III in game-winning goals.
- +/- Leader: Connor Fedorek at +41.
New England Nor’Easters Top Five Scorers + Individual Leaders
1.) Ryan Kuzmich: 15 goals + 21 assists = 36 points. Kuzmich is tied for 7th in Division III in points and tied for 8th in goals and assists.
2.) Jake Fuss: 10 goals + 24 assists = 34 points. Fuss is tied for 5th in Division III in assists and tied for 9th in points.
3.) Jared Christy: 12 goals + 16 assists = 28 points.
4.) Daniel Winslow: 16 goals + 10 assists = 26 points. Winslow is tied for 7th in Division III in goals.
5.) Collin Heinold: 5 goals + 13 assists = 18 points.
- Shots Leader: Daniel Winslow with 95.
- Power Play Goals Leader: Daniel Winslow with six. Winslow is tied for 5th in Division III in goals.
- Game Winning Goals Leader: Jared Christy with five. Christy is tied for 2nd in Division III in game-winning goals.
- +/- Leader: Ryan Kuzmich at +25.
Utica Pioneers Team Defense
- Goals Against: 52.
- Goals Against Per Game: 1.9 (7th in Division III).
- Shots Allowed: 644.
- Shots Allowed Per Game: 23.0.
- Penalty Kill: 86.1% (62 for 72).
- Shorthanded Goals Scored: six (3rd in Division III). Lucas Herrmann has three shorthanded goals, which ties him for 3rd in Division III.
New England Nor’Easters Team Defense
- Goals Against: 61.
- Goals Against Per Game: 2.2 (17th in Division III).
- Shots Allowed: 803.
- Shots Allowed Per Game: 28.7.
- Penalty Kill: 81.8% (90 for 110).
- Shorthanded Goals Scored: three (tied for 5th in Division III). Daniel Winslow has two shorthanded goals which tie him for 4th in Division III.
Utica Pioneers Goaltenders
- Bryan Landsberger: Record: 25-2-1 / GAA: 1.80 / Save Percentage: 0.924 / Saves: 558 / Shutouts: 4. Landsberger is 3rd in Division III in minutes played, tied for 3rd in shutouts, 12th in GAA, and tied for 16th in save percentage.
- Avery Sturtz: Record: 0-0-0 / GAA: 3.16 / Save Percentage: 0.842 / Saves: 32 / Shutouts: 0.
- Andrew Doran: Record: 0-0-0 / GAA: 0.00 / Save Percentage: 1.000 / Saves: 2 / Shutouts: 0.
New England Nor’Easters Goaltenders
- Billy Girard IV: Record: 15-6-2 / GAA: 2.27 / Save Percentage: 0.921 / Saves: 621 / Shutouts: 3. Girard is tied for 4th in Division III in shutouts, 19th in save percentage, and 32nd in GAA.
- Joe Stanizzi: Record: 5-0-0 / GAA: 0.64 / Save Percentage: 0.973 / Saves: 109 / Shutouts: 2.
- James Corcoran: Record: 0-0-0 / GAA: 6.00 / Save Percentage: 0.857 / Saves: 12 / Shutouts: 0.
Saturday night’s game at the Adirondack Bank Center is scheduled to begin at 7 pm EDT. For more information about Utica Pioneers hockey including rosters, schedules, and streaming information, visit https://uticapioneers.com.
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