UMass Dartmouth Aims To Defend MASCAC Title

NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. – The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth men's ice hockey team will look to defend its first Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) title with one of the youngest teams in the program's illustrious history. The 2013-14 Corsairs lineup is comprised of five upperclassmen—four seniors and a junior—10 sophomores and two transfers.

Under his watchful eye, John Rolli guided UMass Dartmouth to its 12th conference championship and fourth appearance in the NCAA Division III tournament last winter. In 2013, the Corsairs posted to an overall record of 12-8-7, including a second place finish in the MASCAC standings with a 9-3-6 mark. Rolli's charges surged down the stretch with a six –game unbeaten streak (3-0-3) to capture the No. 2 seed and a first round bye in the MASCAC tournament.

UMass Dartmouth utilized some magic in the semifinals against Salem State, rallying from a three-goal, third period deficit to forge a 4-4 tie at the end of regulation. Nate Dupere (Fall River, Mass.) scored just 1:55 into the third overtime period—the third longest game in NCAA Division III history—to send the Corsair fans home happy. UMass Dartmouth upset top-seeded Plymouth State University in the finals, edging the Panthers 2-1. The Corsairs raised the MASCAC championship trophy and earned the program's first appearance in the national field since 2008.

Let's meet the 2013-14 UMass Dartmouth Corsairs:

FORWARDS:

Junior Shaun Walters (Plymouth, Mich.) is the top returning scorer from the 2013 edition. In 27 games, Walters penned 20 points, on nine goals and 11 assists, into his ledger to finish third in points. Senior Greg Girtatos (Tyngsboro, Mass.), a creative playmaker, will center the UMass Dartmouth top-line flanked by sophomore Mike Restuccia (Malden, Mass.). Girtatos produced 10 helpers and four markers for 14 points last season, while Restuccia will begin his first season in a Corsair uniform after transferring from Castleton State.

Senior Dmitry Antipin (Novosibirsk, Russia) will center the second line with sophomore Casey Skoinik (Ashland, Ore.) and classmate Kyle Johnston (Charlotte, Mich.) on his wings. Antipin, an assistant captain, turned in a well-balanced attack last winter with seven goals and nine assists for 16 points. Skoinik and Johnston each registered their first collegiate markers in 2013.

The third line will be comprised of sophomore Evangelos Stefanou (Tabernacle, N.J.), classmate John Sartell (Wakefield, Mass.) and freshman Tanner Zacharewicz (Ludlow, Mass.) Last season, Stefanou contributed five points (2-3) to the offensive rush, while Sartell saw most of his action from the blue-line. Zacharewicz is the lone first-year to immediately break into the Corsairs' top-nine forwards.

Sophomores Matt Hughes (Hingham, Mass.), Garrett Allen (Dartmouth, Mass.), and Mike Wilson (St. Johns, Mich.) are expected to form the UMass Dartmouth fourth line.

DEFENSE:

Senior captain Nate Dupere (Fall River, Mass.) will man the UMass Dartmouth top-defensive pair alongside sophomore Billy Boudreau (Newburyport, Mass.). Dupere, who registered four points in 27 games last season, is a puck-moving defensemen that can ignite the Corsairs counterattack. Boudreau is a hard-hitting blue-liner that will stymied the opposing rush.

Three UMass Dartmouth student-athletes are battling for two spots on the Corsairs' second defensive pair. Sophomore Mike Grassi (Reading, Mass.) figures to be in the line-up on a consistent basis, while classmate Conor Clement (Danvers, Mass.) and sophomore Zak Kroll (Anchorage, Alaska) will compete for the final sport.

The third UMass Dartmouth pairing will consist of former Northern Cyclone teammates Jonathan Houk (Richboro, Pa.) and freshman Devin Welch (Sandwich, Mass.).

GOALTENDING:

Senior Ben Vandervies (Hanna, Alberta) is expected to earn the lion's share of minutes in net for the Corsairs. Vandervies, who backed up Colin Tracy and Ryan Williams over the past three seasons, will look to build upon a junior campaign that resulted in an individual record of 1-2-1. He posted a 3.63 goals against average and a 89.6 save percentage in 231 minutes, 35 seconds of action. Vandervies, a butterfly netminder, has good pad control and the ability to deflect rebounds into the corners.

The freshman tandem of JJ Solloway (Derry, N.H.) and Nic Wackerly (Altedena, Calif.) will provide UMass Dartmouth with a quality corps of goaltenders. Solloway backstopped the Northern Cyclones to the 2013 Atlantic Junior Hockey League title. The rookie from Derry N.H. sat atop the standings in goals against average (2.09) and wins (22), while also ranking among the leaders in save percentage (5th, .926). Wackerly anchored the Billings Bulls of the American West Hockey League to a fifth place finish in the league table. The first-year from Altedena, Calif. started 34 of his 37 games, posting a 3.38 goals against average and a .901 save percentage.

SCHEDULE:

UMass Dartmouth will face a challenging schedule in 2013-14, beginning with intra-state rival No. 12 University of Massachusetts Boston at 4:35 p.m. on Nov. 2. The Corsairs' slate is comprised of three nationally-ranked opponents in the Beacons, No. 8 Babson College (Nov. 26), and No. 7 Bowdoin College (Dec. 1). The Beavers and Polar Bears joined UMass Dartmouth in the 11-team 2013 NCAA Division III tournament field.

The Corsairs will open their 18-game MASCAC schedule at 5:45 p.m. on Nov. 13, when UMD travels to Worcester State. Two days later, UMass Dartmouth will commemorate its latest conference championship with a banner raising ceremony prior to the start of the Framingham State contest at 7:30 p.m. The Corsairs will complete their first semester by hosting league rival Fitchburg State on Dec. 7.

In the second semester, UMass Dartmouth will face 12 MASCAC opponents, including seven-straight to finish the regular-season. The top-six teams in the league standings advance to the 2014 MASCAC tournament with the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds earning a first round bye. The semifinals are scheduled for March 4 with the conference champion being crowned on March 8 at the highest remaining seed.