A pair of former Newburyport High School hockey players are expected to compete in the Division 1 NCAA tournament this weekend.
UMass Lowell teammates Derek McCoy and Billy Eiserman, who played at Newburyport together for the 2007-2008 season, are both expected to see ice time Friday when the third-seeded River Hawks face second-seeded Miami of Ohio in the opening round of the East Regional in Bridgeport, Conn.
UMass Lowell (23-12-1) earned an invitation to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1996. Friday's game will be broadcast live on ESPNU and ESPN 3.
"This is a pretty big accomplishment," McCoy said yesterday. "It's been 16 years, and we were fortunate enough to get a bid after a successful season."
Eiserman, a freshman, saw more ice time than the sophomore, McCoy, this season. The freshman defenseman played in 27 of the team's 36 games. He tallied three assists and had a +/- of +1.
"UMass Lowell was the first team I talked to when I was being recruited," Eiserman said. "I wasn't looking at the past, I was looking forward to the future. I wanted to be a part of changing it around. I wanted UMass Lowell to be a school people looked at with BC, BU and UNH, up high in Hockey East. We've made some noise this year."
Eiserman played at Newburyport High during his freshman and sophomore years in high school. He was a member of the Division 2 state champion team in 2009.
Following that season, he joined the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs of the Eastern Junior Hockey League. He then played for the Tri-City Storm of the United States Hockey League.
Billy's father, Bill Sr., was a member of the UMass Lowell hockey team in 1986-1987.
"The biggest difference in Division 1 hockey is the maturity level of the players," Billy Eiserman said. "Everybody's bigger and stronger, but the transition wasn't too difficult."
McCoy captained the 2007-2008 Newburyport hockey team to the EMass. Division 2 North semifinal as a senior before graduating with 101 career points. After high school, he spent two seasons playing junior hockey either in the Empire Hockey League and Eastern Junior Hockey League.
He then followed the path of his father, Donnie McCoy, who was a team captain and leading scorer for the UMass Lowell hockey team in 1983-1984.
"The transition from Newburyport to Division 1 hockey has been like night and day," McCoy said. "I'm playing with older guys who are a lot stronger. I've changed my game as my role has changed. At Newburyport, I was a point-getter. In juniors, I was a point-getter who could also grind it out. In college, I'm more of a grinder, a physical player. I'm much more of an energy player than a finesse player."
UMass Lowell also made trips to the Division I NCAA Tournament in 1988, 1994 and 1996, posting a 2-3-1 record in six games. Prior to making the jump to Division I in 1983-84, the then-named Chiefs appeared in five consecutive Division 2 NCAA Tournaments from 1979-1983 and won Division 2 National Championships in 1979, 1981 and 1982.
"The biggest thing I've learned in college is that a team is composed of everybody playing their roles," McCoy said. "It takes everybody in every practice and game to make sure we're all getting better. College is all about the team over the individual."