For 10 men’s hockey seniors, camaraderie and high hopes for playoffs

William Pelletier, #20, one of the 10 seniors on the men’s hockey team, celebrates a goal with fellow senior Tyler Piacentini, #21. A close-knit senior class has matured to create a dynamic and powerful offense for the Cadets.

The Norwich University Men’s Ice Hockey Team has clinched three regular season championships over the course of the last four years. This kind of success is largely unheard of in NCAA Division III hockey and showcases the impressive ability Norwich puts on the ice every game.

Much of this success over the last four years has come from this year’s current senior class of ten players who have dedicated thousands of hours to building a successful team over the course of their four-year Norwich career.

“We’ve got nine four-year players that [were honored] on Senior Night, and one three-year transfer player,” said head coach Mike McShane. “We’ve all had our ups and downs, but this has got to be one of my absolute favorite classes.”

McShane added that good team leadership was a natural byproduct of this veteran crew, and a key element to winning any games.

The 19-1-2 Cadets had already surpassed their win mark from last year with three league games still remaining in the season. They ended up the season 21-1-3, and now wait to see who they will play at Kreitzberg on Feb. 25 in the NEHC semifinals.

William Pelletier, a 23 year-old business management major from Québec City, has seen this season as a drastic change. “Last year we really did not get the bounces and this year we have been creating our own luck and just outworking our opponents.”

The Cadets extended their unbeaten streak to 16 straight – a new record for the program – on Jan. 28 against Skidmore University, clinching their 18th regular season league title in the last 19 years.

“It is something special knowing that you set a new record for the school as a team,” said Paul Russell, one of the key fourth-year players from Andover, Mass.

“They’ve been playing really well all season, and [the playoffs] should give them a little extra motivation to keep the win streak alive.”

Leadership by example has certainly been a top priority for the Cadets this year, with seniors making up five of the top six point leaders on the team for the 2016-2017 season. Leading the team in points this season is Pelletier, the speedy forward with a scoring touch. Pelletier has notched 12 goals and 16 assists for 28 points in only 14 games played this season, and is on track for a stellar capstone season to his college career.

“I’m very fortunate and lucky to be part of a team that works hard on and off the ice. We have high expectations for this year, and are practicing every day to be successful,” said Pelletier.

Another standout performance among the senior class comes from Hudson, Mass., native Cody Smith, a defenseman on the team.

Smith, 23, and a communications major, has recorded 24 assists going into senior night, leading all of NCAA Division III Men’s Ice Hockey in assists. “The time really has flown by,” he said, “I can remember lacing up my skates and stepping out onto the Kreitzberg Arena ice for the first time like it was yesterday.”

Making his senior-year showing in net for the Cadets is Ty Reichenbach, a 23 year-old communications major from Billings, Mt. Reichenbach has over 600 minutes in net this season, and a team-best 92.5 save percentage on 239 shots.

“This season has been really special for several reasons, but one that sticks out to me is that my parents have been able to make it to many of my games,” said Reichenbach. “My Dad has been able to fly out for several weekends-worth of games, and both my parents [came] all the way from Montana for senior night.”

Norwich closes out the regular season with three road games starting with the trip to UMass Boston where they won 4-1 and a 2-2 tie against Babson College. The Cadets close out their regular season again Saint Mike’s on Fe. 18 at 4 p.m.

“Playoffs are right around the corner and we just have to keep up the same play,” said assistant coach and former Norwich player Alec Theida. “I love our chances as long as we keep playing as a team and stay to our level. We are a hardworking team and it all stems from the work we put in, it is going to be a fun ride.”

“The most important thing is that we have home ice through the playoffs and hopefully through NCAA’s,” Piacentini said. “Two years ago we had a great record and ended up not getting that key NCAA quarterfinal home game. We had to play Amherst on the road and I know if we get that home game this year, there’s no chance we will lose.”

The Cadets have already clinched the number one seed for the NEHC Tournament by virtue of the regular season title. The men’s team will get a bye through the first round of the tournament since there are only seven teams in the league this year, and then host a NEHC tournament semifinal game on Feb. 25 at Kreitzberg Arena.

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