CASTLETON, Vt. – The Castleton men's hockey will play a critical home-and-home series with Skidmore on Friday and Saturday, as the two squads battle for positioning in the top half of the New England Hockey Conference standings.
Both games begin at 7 p.m., with Saturday's contest marking the final regular-season home game for Castleton. There will be a brief ceremony to honor Castleton's six seniors prior to the contest, followed by an elongated ceremony after the conclusion of the game. The 2016-17 Fan Favorite will also be announced at Saturday's game.
The Spartans enter the weekend in fourth place at 7-5-2 in NEHC play, just one point ahead of Skidmore, which is 7-6-1 in conference play. Castleton is 8-9-4 overall after losing just one of its last eight games dating back to the turn of the new year. Castleton went 5-1-2 in the month of January, bouncing back from a rough start to the season in which it was 3-8-2.
A veteran crew has led the Spartan turnaround, as four of the team's top six scorers are seniors. Brock Labelle and Patrick Thornton are tied for the team lead in points, at 14 apiece. Labelle has tallied four goals this season, two on the power play, while adding 10 assists; Thornton leads the squad with 13 assists, notching a goal of his own this season as well. Bart Moran has been a force to be reckoned with on the power play this season, scoring seven of his eight goals on the man advantage. The senior is tied for second-most power-play goals in the nation, and leads the team in goals scored. Senior Nick Kovalchik is having one of the best seasons of his career, tallying seven points on three goals and four assists while appearing in 20 contests. Juniors Trevor Hanna and Jimmy Burns have been key cogs in the offensive machine for the Spartans, as Hanna has six goals and six assists, while Burns has chipped in with two goals and six assists.
Ryan Mulder has been a mainstay between the pipes in the second half of the season, starting in each game since the break. He has a 5-1-2 mark in his last eight starts, good for a 7-5-3 record overall. The junior has stopped 351 shots this season, giving him a save percentage of .905 and a goals-against average of 2.50.
Skidmore enters the weekend with a record of 8-11-2 overall, though it has largely struggled since Thanksgiving. The Thoroughbreds are just 2-9-2 in 14 games since November 27 after starting the year 6-2-0 with wins over ranked teams in Norwich and UMass-Boston.
Anthony Bird has been the leading scorer for the team, potting 11 goals this season while adding seven assists for 18 total points. Marc Cibelli leads the Thoroughbreds in assists, with 12, while adding three goals for 15 points of his own. Corey Morgan is the top-scoring defenseman on the team, tallying five goals and 10 helpers for 15 total points. Adam Moodie and Owen Campbell have each reached the double-digit points threshold, registering 11 and 10 points this season, respectively.
Jack McDonald and Brandon Kasel have split time in net this season, with McDonald owning a 3-7-2 record, while Kasel is 5-4-0. Kasel has a slight edge in numbers, posting a .912 save percentage and a 2.73 goals-against average, while McDonald has a .908 save percentage and 3.00 goals-against average this season.
Castleton holds a 12-8-3 edge in the all-time head-to-head series, though the teams have split the season series in two of the last three seasons. Last year, the home team was victorious each time.