In the preseason, just about every I talked to mentioned their top contenders for the league as including Wentworth, Johnson and Wales and Lebanon Valley. In fact, I don’t remember any of them not mentioning those teams. The ECAC Northeast preseason coaches poll reflected this as well, as LVC garnered the top spot followed closely by Wentworth, UMass-Dartmouth and Johnson and Wales.
Now that we are a few weeks into the season, we can take a look at who is making noise, and who is dead silent.
While UMD has been less then spectacular, the rest of the prognosticators’ choices are right where they should be. Wentworth and JWU are undefeated and LVC is undefeated in the league. I guess the coaches knew what they were talking about.
As for the rest of the league, everything is pretty much up in the air.
Another point a number of coaches made in the preseason was that there are the top three or four teams, and then you can throw everyone else in a hat. We are seeing that come into fruition in these first few weeks. Some of the younger teams are working out an identity for themselves.Some have been more successful than others thus far. One success is Curry, which began on awinning note at its own tournament. Assumption is more or less happy with where it is, but is also young. And then we have a team like Fitchburg, which seems to beexperiencing some growing pains,perhaps trying too hard to find its niche.
Let’s take a team-by-team look at what is going on in the ECAC Northeast.
Johnson and Wales
The Wildcats of Johnson and Wales are off to a spectacular start. They are not only winning their games, they are destroying the competition. Head coach Lou Izzi is understandably pleased with his squad thus far.
“We’re really happy, particularly with the freshman class. They’re playing major roles and they’ve come through.”
Part of that freshman class is the goaltending tandem of Nick Lacroix (2-0-0, 2.50, .915%) and Bobby Doran (2-0-0, 3.00, .880%). The two were named Northeast Co-Rookies of The Week by the ECAC in their first week of action.
“Goaltending has been fantastic,” said Izzi of his freshman duo. “For the first time in our five year history we have depth at the goaltending position. They are a good 1-2 punch. I look at both of them as number-one goalies.”
Goaltending is not the only thing clicking on all cylinders for JWU. The offense has been tremendous, averaging 7.5 goals a game in their first four contests.
“We’re rolling four lines that can score every game,” said Izzi. He also mentioned that, with four injuries in Tuesday night’s shellacking of Framingham State, the fifth line stepped right in and the team didn’t miss a beat.
“That is a tribute to our depth,” added Izzi.
Izzi points to the team’s ability to score in bunches as a major reason why they are winning so handily.
“We have the ability to explode and we’ve done that in the first four games.” Those explosions include multiple four- and five-goal periods in the first four games.
When you throw up four or five unanswered goals in a period, and when your power play is clicking at an astounding 40%, there is not much hope for the trailing team. At 4-0-0, the Wildcats look like a ferocious bunch. If you don’t come to play against these guys they are going to embarrass you.
JWU takes itsshow on the road this week as they will visit upstate New York for tilts at Cortland on Saturday and Utica on Sunday.
Head coach Chris MacPherson was happy to get a 6-0 win at Suffolk after starting out the season 0-2-1 with some tough losses
“Last night was good for us. We finally broke the ice.”
MacPherson made mention of the solid play he received out of Adam Asselin and Billy Baker. Both players had a 1-2–3 line on the night. And junior Matt Hillberg, who leads the team in scoring (4-1–5), continued to be a positive presence as he contributed a goal in the winning effort.
Junior goalkeeper Chris Burns, who has been exceptional in the early going, got what McPherson identified as the first shutout in school history in the effort.
“He has definitely stepped up as the number-one guy,” said the coach. “He’s seeing the puck very well right now.”
The Paine Webber Faceoff Classic games that the Seahawks lost in the opening were games that just barely got away.
“We have to take those in stride,” said MacPherson. “Players were getting used to systems. We walked out of that building with our heads up.”
Salve Regina is in decent shape with an overall record of 1-2-1, but the 1-0 league record is what counts for MacPherson.
“We’re happy with where we are at right now. We’re 1-0 in the league and the league is what really matters.”
Salve hosts Plymouth State on Friday night in what should be an exciting league matchup.
“[Plymouth] is a real tough team. They remind me a little bit of us.”
Assumption is 3-1-1, a record that has already tripled the first half of last year’s win total. They began the season by winning the tournament they hosted and they are 1-1-1 since then, with the only loss coming to an excellent Johnson and Wales squad that has torn up the competition. Not a bad start.
The schedule is heating up for the Hounds, though. Assumption is approaching what should be the toughest part of the schedule, three consecutive tilts with some excellent hockey teams: at Wentworth, home against St. Mike’s, and at St. Anselm. Assumption is happy to be 3-1-1, but not content.
Senior co-captain Brendan Norton said, “I think we’re showing a lot of improvement for such a young team. We’re finding ways to win games.”
He was wary of the upcoming games, though, saying, “It’s a tough stretch, toughest of the season definitely. I think this could show us a lot about the character of our team.”
Junior co-captain Bob Reddish is carrying the load offensively for the Ice Dogs. His 3-6–9 line in the first four games is eye popping.
But the Assumption offense is suffering big time from a lack of production on the power play. Only one conversion in 17 attempts has to have Assumption wishing it could begin declining penalties. On the positive side of the special teams is the penalty kill, which is a very steady 85%.
As mentioned, Assumption will be traveling to Wentworth Saturday in its next game action.
Curry opened the season with a bang, winning its own tournament and doing so easily. With a 7-4 win over Suffolk and a 7-3 win over Western New England College, the Colonels look like they are living up to their preseason hype thus far.
Most of that hype was due to the impressive freshman class that the coaches brought in. And indeed, the freshmen are contributing heavily. Eight of the twelve point-getters on the team are in the freshman class.
Leading the way for the freshmen and the team is Brian Doherty, whose five-goal effort in the first two games earned him USCHO D-III Offensive Player of the Week and ECAC Northeast Player of The Week honors. Doherty is 5-1–6 in his first two career games.
Not to be overlooked in the forward ranks are the contributions of senior Jason Boyle (2-4–6) and fellow freshmen Joseph Chiasson (2-2–4) and Mike Melanson (0-4–4). Their contributions on the score sheet are a big part of the wins as well.
The goaltending duties have been split by sophomore Phil Belmont (1-0-0, 4.00, .879) and senior Ryan Wood (1-0-0, 3.00, .900) and with two wins who could complain?
Curry goes on the road traveling to Brockport Saturday and Hobart Sunday. This is a bold scheduling move by the coaches, but we will see how it works out.
The Flying Dutchmen were winless in two games heading into last week’s action but did anyone really think that the 0-2 record was an accurate reflection of the team? Well, after wins of 9-1, 6-1 and 9-0 I don’t think so.
Junior Scott Schilling has been a key player in his return to the team. He has two multiple goal games and has at least a point in every game except for one s