The Salem State University men’s hockey team plays in its first NCAA Division 3 tournament game since 1995 tonight at 7 p.m. when the Vikings square off against Norwich University at Kreitzberg Arena in Northfield, Vt.
Salem State has relied on its skill, character and commitment this winter, and three North Shore natives — forwards Andrew Bucci and Alex Minter of Peabody and defenseman Keaton Cashin of Boxford — have been paramount to its success.
Minter, a freshman, has given the team a big lift offensively. The winger is second on the team in points with 25, tied for first in goals with 11 and power play goals with three. Bucci and Cashin, who are both sophomores, saw similar success in their first seasons with Salem State.
“These days, freshmen come in and they’ve played a lot of hockey and traveled a lot of miles,” explained SSU (16-9-2) head coach Bill O’Neill. “They bring emotions and enthusiasm and a skill set. Alex is a talented player who’s had a terrific freshman year. He seems older than that now.”
In the Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference Championship game, Minter scored a goal and added an assist as the Vikings claimed a 5-1 victory over Plymouth State. He is fast and dangerous with the puck, but his speed isn’t just an offensive weapon as O’Neill has made him a mainstay on the penalty kill.
“When you have a freshman coming and doing what he did, it rises the team and gives you energy and makes you want to do better,” explained Cashin. “(Minter’s) great in the locker room and a great friend. Very creative with the puck.”
As a freshman, Bucci flourished in 23 games by finishing with 11 points, including a game-winning goal. While he put the time in during the offseason, Bucci was left frustrated in the early goings in this, his sophomore campaign, when he couldn’t crack the starting lineup.