WESTFIELD, Mass. – The Westfield State men's hockey team is set to make a run for their first ever MASCAC championship, as the #2 seeded Owls host #6 Salem State on Tuesday night at 7:35 p.m. at Amelia Park Ice Arena.
Westfield State earned the second seed and a first-round bye for the first time in school history, posting an 11-6-1 record in the conference. The Owls also tied the record for most wins in a season since the program was reinstated in 2008 with 14.
The Owls are led by their top offensive line of Francois-Xavier Girard, Daniel Backstrom, and Paul Frys. Backstrom shares the lead as the squad's top point-getter with 22 total points, and Girard has carried a hot stick as of late, scoring five goals in the last four games. Freshman Paul Frys has been a valuable addition to this line, notching three game-winning goals already in his young career.
Westfield State has also received consistent offensive production from assistant captain Aaron Clancy and freshman Jake Ratcliffe. The New Zealand native Ratcliffe, a three-time MASCAC Rookie of the Week, has provided an offensive spark for the Owls, scoring 12 goals and adding 10 assists in his first season of collegiate hockey thus far.
The Owls have received strong defensive play headlined by senior captain Lenny Caglianone, who also ranks fourth in scoring on the team with 17 points.
Goaltender Thierry Messervier has been a huge part of the Owls' success this season, finishing the regular season with a 14-7-3 record, 2.64 GAA, and a .921 save percentage. Messervier ranks within the top three in the MASCAC in both winning percentage and save percentage.
Westfield State has taken all three games from the Vikings this year, outscoring Salem 13-6 in the process.
The Owls' first win came back in November, as Westfield State held off a Salem State comeback to claim a 5-4 victory in Salem. In the second matchup, the Owls exploded for four goals in the third period to pick up the 6-2 win at home. In the season finale, Messervier stole the show recording his second of three shutouts on the year to give the Owls the 2-0 victory on the road.
The #6 seeded Vikings pulled off the upset of #3 seed UMass Dartmouth, defeating the Corsairs 4-3 on Saturday night with a late third period goal.
The Vikings always seem to be in the hunt to win it all, as they have appeared in four of the last five MASCAC championship games, and have been crowned champions three of those four times.
Salem brings a fairly young offensive group to the table, as three of the top four scorers on the squad are freshman. Ryan Tierney, Billy McGwin, and Matt Yianacopolus are the three young guns the Owls will have to watch for, tallying 18 goals and 29 assists between them all.
Seniors Alexi Mustaniemi and Brody Heleno anchor the Viking defense, as the two shut-down defenders have been a part of two MASCAC-champion teams in their time at Salem State.
It is a matchup of a storied history of champions against a program looking to continue a quest to raise a MASCAC championship banner for the first time.
The winner of Tuesday's game will advance to the title game on Saturday, March 2nd and the game will be held at the highest remaining seed.