It has been a truly remarkable season for the Norwich University men’s hockey team. The Cadets wrapped up the New England Hockey Conference regular season championship on Saturday with a 7-5 win over Skidmore at a raucous Kreitzberg Arena. The victory was number 19 for the Cadets, and it allowed them to clinch the title before the end of January. It was doubly sweet after a season a year ago in which they failed to win the regular season title for the first time in 18 years.
A strong re-commitment from a large senior class has been key to the turn around, and the addition of a strong freshman class has helped as well. But while their 19-1-2 record and the early clinching may say otherwise, in reality the Cadets have not blown away their conference foes. There have been a lot of tight, down to the wire battles along the way, none more intense then the win yesterday over Skidmore, the only team to beat them this season. The Thoroughbreds led 2-0 early and 5-4 going to the final period before Norwich rallied to take the win.
Three games remain on the Cadets’ regular season schedule, two this coming weekend on the road at always tough Babson and UMass-Boston and another a week later at St. Michael’s. With the title already in the bag it will be interesting to see if they can maintain the intensity that has carried them to the heights they have attained this winter. Regardless, Norwich will be the top seed when the NEHC tournament gets going in a couple of weeks and as the top seed they will earn a bye in the first round.
The final weekend single game with St. Mike’s followed by the bye week will mean when they hit the Kreitzberg ice on Saturday night February 25th to host an as yet to be determined opponent in the NEHC semi-finals, the Cadets will have played just one game over the previous two weekends. Ah, yes, the age old question … “Rest, or rust?”
We will see, but for now no one in Northfield is complaining. The conference tournament is coming back to Kreitzberg … right where it belongs.