Icing on the Puck: Norwich Hockey Players Capture Dual NCAA Elite 90 Awards

The year 2016–17 will go down as another banner one for Norwich ice hockey following the men’s fourth NCAA Division III national championship since 2000 and the women’s sixth NCAA Division III Frozen Four appearance in 10 years.

Braeden Ostepchuk ’18. (Photo by Mike Dickie.)

Braeden Ostepchuk ’18. (Photo by Mike Dickie.)

However, perhaps the most notable accomplishment belongs to Braeden Ostepchuk ’18 and Carly Menges ’19, who combined to sweep the NCAA Elite 90 Awards for ice hockey. The award is presented each year to the male and female student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade point average participating at the finals site for each of the NCAA’s 90 championships. NU is only the fifth Division III school to capture both the men’s and women’s awards in the same year.

From Lethbridge, Alberta, Ostepchuk is a mechanical engineering major with a 4.0 GPA. The only goalie in Division III to win every single start, he boasted a perfect 16-0-0 record, a 1.83 goals-against average, and a .924 save percentage, all of which earned him New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) Second Team honors. “The Elite 90 award represents the pinnacle for the Division III student-athlete, where the emphasis is shared equally by academics and athletics,” Ostepchuk said. “I [didn’t go] to Boston College to be an NHL draft pick; I came here to get a degree.”

Ostepchuk got his biggest win of the season on March 24, when he helped backstop the Cadets to a thrilling 5-4 overtime win over Adrian College (Mich.) in the semifinals and a berth in the national championship game. “Getting to play at that level and on that stage on Friday was one of the best experiences I’ve had,” the netminder said. “And then getting to see Ty [Reichenboch] play on Saturday and win it all was amazing. I didn’t get uptight about being in the net in overtime on Friday. I was a lot more stressed out on Saturday when I couldn’t control anything.”

Menges is from Novelty, Ohio, and has a 3.9 GPA as a health science major. She transferred to Norwich after spending one semester at Division I UMaine last year. She made an immediate impact in the lineup, earning NEHC All-Rookie team honors as a freshman and following up with NEHC Third Team honors this season. A blue-liner, her 2 goals and 13 assists for 15 points placed her second on the team in points among defensemen.

Carly Menges ’19. (Photo by Derek Dunning.)

Carly Menges ’19. (Photo by Derek Dunning.)

After falling short of an NCAA berth in 2015–16, the Norwich women punched their ticket to the playoffs with their seventh NEHC Tournament title in the last nine seasons. The Cadets advanced to the Frozen Four following a dramatic 5-4 overtime win over Middlebury in the quarterfinals. “Last year was a disappointment, so we made it a goal to get back to the NCAAs and hopefully to the Frozen Four,” Menges said. “We dealt with a lot of adversity this year to get to where we ended.”

Norwich lost in the semis to archrival Plattsburgh State, who then went on to win their fourth straight national title. Menges echoed Ostepchuk’s comment on how Norwich puts student-athletes in a place to succeed both academically and athletically. “I think sweeping these awards shows the culture of Norwich hockey that we do care a lot about our academics,” Menges said. “We come here to not only play on national championship-caliber hockey teams, but we also want to get Norwich degrees that will set us up for the rest of our lives.”

Ostepchuk will be spending this summer in New York City working as an intern in finance, the same internship senior Austin Surowiec held last year. Menges will be working as an intern with a physical therapy clinic in Buffalo. –D.D.

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