Londonderry's Nick Marquis, shown in action this season, is a big reason why UMass-Dartmouth's hovkey team is going to the NCAA Division III tournament. (COURTESY)
Londonderry's Nick Marquis skating into the limelight with tourney-bound UMass-Dartmouth
Marquis scored a key second-period goal to help UMass-Dartmouth to a 2-1 victory against top seed and host Plymouth State in the Massachusetts Collegiate Athletic Conference hockey championship game at Hanaway Rink in Plymouth.
Marquis, a senior captain, will lead the Corsairs to the first round of the NCAA Division III Championships when they travel to Brunswick, Maine, to face Bowdoin College on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Polar Bears (22-3-2) are the New England Small College Athletic Conference champions.
Plymouth State took a 1-0 second-period lead when Marquis' friend, Phil Arnone of Litchfield, scored at the 7:35 mark. But 42 seconds later, Marquis said he anticipated and intercepted a pass from PSU goalie Jack Astedt, resulting in a game-tying unassisted goal.
"There's a thousand fans in the rink and Phil just made them erupt with his goal," said Marquis. "As captain, I'm just thinking of what I can do to keep our team focused and fortunately I'm in the right place to steal a pass and score. It turns the momentum, we end up scoring in the third period and win the championship. It's an awesome feeling."
Marquis, who played two seasons at Londonderry High before attending Tilton School for three years, said PSU and St. Anselm College pursued him. "It was an honor because those are two great institutions," said Marquis. "St. Anselm wanted me to play lacrosse and hockey and I felt I just couldn't juggle two sports and keep up with my academics there. At the time Plymouth State came calling, their tremendous rink hadn't been built and I really didn't know anyone there."
Marquis, who played one season with the Haverhill, Mass.-based Valley Jr. Warriors (EJHL), ended up following longtime friend Justin Stahl of Londonderry, who was already at UMass-Dartmouth.
"He told me the team was a close-knit family, the atmosphere was great and was a very good business school, which is my major," said Marquis. "Just like at Tilton, going to UMass-Dartmouth turned out to be a good decision. I've learned a lot and it helped me grow as a person. Its a good fit."
Marquis said Arnone wasn't at Plymouth State when he was searching for a school.
"We're good friends who played together in summer and fall leagues," said Marquis. "Phil was at Curry when I searched out Plymouth State and he later transferred to Plymouth State. We still text each other. He congratulated me on our team's win and at the same time poked fun at me for taking away the momentum he established before I scored my goal. It's all in fun."
Marquis said he's honored to be captain during a year UMass-Dartmouth has already turned heads.
"Captains here are picked by the players and not the coaches," he said. "So it's special when your peers pick you to lead the team. I've always prided myself in being a leader."
The Corsairs are 5-0-3 over their last eight games, and 12-7-7 entering the NCAA tournament.
"We're playing well at the right time and we're thriving as underdogs," said Marquis, whose team was 0-2-1 during the regular season against Plymouth State. "Plymouth State was the defending champs and the team to beat this year," said Marquis. "We lost our first two games to them (5-1 and 2-1), but tied them (4-4) during our last regular season meeting after we fell behind by three goals. That game gave us the confidence we needed to beat them for the championship."
To win, Marquis stressed his team must play a physical style.
"That's who we are," said Marquis. "We haven't seen Bowdoin, but we know they're a finesse team. We need to come out and play a physical style, which they're not used to seeing."
Marquis said he has a job lined up after he graduates this year. "My dad owns a construction company in Merrimack and I plan to go work for him if I don't end up playing hockey after I leave here (UMass-Dartmouth)," said Marquis. "My mom owns a gym and being a personal trainer is something else which has crossed my mind."
At the moment Marquis would love nothing better than to lead his team to the national finals in Lake Placid, N.Y.
"That's my focus right now, to keep this season going to the very last game."