Men's Hockey Opens 2018 Slate at Home Against Potsdam

Men's Hockey Opens 2018 Slate at Home Against Potsdam

CASTLETON, Vt. – After nearly a month off for the holiday break, the Castleton men's hockey team returns to action Tuesday night when it hosts SUNY Potsdam in a non-conference contest at 7 p.m. at Spartan Arena.

Castleton (5-8-1) closed out 2017 with a 1-1, overtime tie at SUNY Canton Dec. 15. Ryan O'Malley netted an early goal on an assist by Nick Gravina just over two minutes in, before the Kangaroos scored their only goal with less than two minutes left in the first period. Ryan Mulder was strong between the pipes, finishing with 26 saves, including 17 combined stops in the third period and overtime. 

The Spartans enter 2018 averaging 2.4 goals per game offensively. Three players sit atop the squad in goals as Caleb Fizer, Trevor Hanna, and Matt Bloomer have all found the back of the net four times. Fizer has produced six assists to lead the team in points with 10, while Troy Taylor has been strong from the blue line, leading the team with eight assists this season.

Mulder and Wyatt Pickrell have split time in goal through the first half of the season. Mulder is 4-2-1 overall with a .887 save percentage and 2.78 goals-against average in eight games played. Pickrell is 1-5-1 and leads the backstop corps with a .903 save percentage in six starts. Collectively, the Spartans are allowing 3.3 goals per game.

Castleton will look to improve on its special teams in the second half of the campaign. On the power play, the Spartans are 12-of-92 for a 13 percent conversion rate with the man advantage. The Spartans have struggled to get going early in games as they have been outscored 18-10 in the first period, their largest point differential (-8) in any period. With a lead at the first intermission, the Spartans are 2-0-0 thus far.

SUNY Potsdam (7-5-2) is coming off a 5-3 loss to Nazareth on Saturday. After going unbeaten in seven of its first nine games to earn votes in both major national polls, the Bears have lost four of their last five and have not won since Dec. 1 at Fredonia.

The Bears have been strong offensively, averaging 3.1 goals per game. They have three players with at least 10 points, led by Dylan Vander Esch with 14 (7g, 7a). Tyler Young has collected 12 points from six goals and six assists, while Kyle Thacker has registered 11 points on two goals and a team-high nine assists. 

SUNY Potsdam comes to Spartan Arena allowing 3.2 goals per game defensively. Brendan McMenimen leads the backstop unit with 10 starts and is 4-5-1 with a .984 save percentage and 3.61 goals-against average. Nate Skidmore is unbeaten in four starts (3-0-1) with a .929 save percentage and 2.35 goals-against mark. The Bears' defensive unit is scuffling of late as they have been outscored, 23-8, over their last five games. 

Castleton is 5-1-2 all-time against SUNY Potsdam and is unbeaten (2-0-1) against the Bears at home. The two teams battled to a 1-1, overtime draw last season on Oct. 29, 2016, at Maxcy Ice Arena.