They packed their bags for Vermont yesterday, will play in the Green Mountain State tonight — and hope that their postseason ride continues when the game is over.
Back in the NCAA Division 3 tournament for the first time in 19 years, the Salem State University hockey team faces off against Norwich University tonight at Kreitzberg Arena in Northfield, Vt.
The Vikings (16-9-2), who earned an automatic spot in the NCAA playoffs after beating Plymouth State, 5-1, for the MASCAC championship last weekend in Salem, are scheduled to practice at the rink this morning before the 7 p.m. faceoff tonight. The host Cadets (19-6-3) received one of four at-large bids in the 11-team bracket after falling in the ECAC title game to Babson, 2-1. This marks the fifth straight season Norwich has qualified for NCAAs.
The single-elimination tournament begins with three games tonight, four more on Saturday, then the semifinals and final in Lewiston, Maine on March 21-22. Salem State, Babson, Nichols, St. Thomas (Minn.), Bowdoin, St. Norbert (Wisc.) and Osewgo (N.Y.) State each received automatic berths by winning their respective conferences while Adrian (Mich.) College, Geneseo (N.Y.) State, Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Norwich got at-large bids.
“I know how good a team Norwich is and the success that program has had in the NCAAs,” said veteran Salem State head coach Bill O’Neill. “We’re going to have to play our best. It’s a great hockey rink; a fantastic venue and I expect a big crowd.
“It’s very exciting for our guys. Getting to this point has been a process all year long, from captains’ practice all the way through the regular season to the MASCAC playoffs and now the NCAAs. All the way through this team has built camaraderie, trust, and belief in each other. Now we earned the opportunity to extend our season.”