NCAA D3 Hockey Tournament Preview: Curry at Elmira

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NCAA D3 Hockey Tournament Preview: Curry at Elmira
7 p.m. - Murray Athletic Center
Five losses over the last seven games of a season will normally kill a team's chances at making the 11-team NCAA tournament field, but not if you're Aaron Saul and the Elmira College men's hockey program. The first-year coach watched his Soaring Eagles drop an overtime heartbreaker to Manhattanville in the ECAC West championship game on Saturday, then found out less than 24 hours later that his team had been selected over the Valiants (20-6-1) as the recipient of the Pool B bid into the dance. This marks the first time in 26 seasons that the winner of the ECAC West tournament will not participate in the NCAA tournament.

Despite the slow finish, you have to be impressed by Elmira's résumé.  The Eagles own a home victory over SUNYAC champion Oswego State and battled to a 1-1 tie with highly-ranked Plattsburgh in January.  They also responded well to a shocking early-season loss to Morrisville, going 15-1-1 in their next 17 games (the only loss being to Oswego State and the previously-mentioned tie with Plattsbugh).  They'll rely on a spread scoring attack (six players with at least nine goals) and veteran goaltending from senior Casey Tuttle (13-6-1, 2.50 GAA, 91.2 save %) to try and avoid a second straight play-in round loss.

Curry won the ECAC Northeast and earned an automatic bid to the tourney, winning three straight in their conference bracket after finishing the regular season with a pair of losses. The Colonels faced just two tournament teams in the regular season: they were shutout 4-0 by Norwich on New Year's Day then fell 6-4 at Bowdoin on Jan. 6.  They are a young team that typically spends more minutes in the penalty box than their opposition.  However, they have a quartet of sophomores, led by forward Payden Benning (29 g, 35 a), who are capable of lighting the lamp in a hurry.  Curry is making their first tournament appearance since 2004-05 when they were drilled 6-0 by Middlebury in the quarterfinals.

Prediction: Elmira 5-2
UPDATE: Final, Elmira 4-1

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