I know I know, I’ve beaten this subject to death this season. But it is worth mentioning that some Northeast teams fared very well against non-conference competition this past week.
UMass-Dartmouth took home the Babson Invitational title with big non-conference wins over Utica and tournament hosts Babson. Those are huge wins for the Corsairs and for the Northeast as a whole.
Wentworth hosted last year’s ECAC East champion New England College and beat them 4-1. More on them in a minute.
And finally, Stonehill beat a struggling UMass-Boston team on Saturday, and followed that up on Sunday with a solid 7-4 win over Tufts.
Even Johnson and Wales, which undoubtedly had the toughest non-conference slate this past weekend in Bowdoin and Colby, fared pretty well. It lost 5-3 to Bowdoin and 3-2 to Colby. Both games, according to coach Lou Izzi, were nailbiters and could have gone either way.
It is great to see people’s assertions that the league is improving as a whole, is bearing itself out on the scoreboard.
And Then There Was One
In recent weeks, more and more teams have had the first blemishes of the season put on their record. Only a handful of undefeated teams remain nationally and only one ECAC Northeast team, the Leopards of Wentworth Institute of Technology, remains undefeated. Wentworth is 6-0.
Head Coach Bill Bowes has had a lot of success in his career. That includes this season in which his Wentworth team is off to the best start in school history.
Wentworth is a team that has doubled its previous best start, 3-0, with its 6-0 mark, and it has done so in very impressive fashion. The Leopards are outscoring opponents, 25-9, holding opponents to 1.5 goals per game while scoring a solid 4.17, and their goaltending has been nothing short of sensational (6-0, 1.50 GAA, .949 combined totals).
But, just like his career 200th victory — about which he said, “What that means to me is I’ve really had the good fortune of coaching college hockey for many years,” — coach Bowes is hesitant to get too excited, downplaying any sensationalism that may follow a 6-0 team around. It’s a long season and what you do in October and November becomes almost irrelevant come playoff time.
“This is definitely our best start, but I guess we’re hoping for the best finish ever,” said Bowes. He continued, “Whether you win or lose in March, that’s what college hockey is all about.”
In that light, he is looking at the next few games as contests that will hopefully improve the team overall and make them better for a late season run.
With their latest 4-1 win over last year’s ECAC East champions New England College, the Leopards successfully began what will be, in a candidate for dramatic understatement of the year, a tough stretch. They travel to Utica, RIT, Salem State, and then host Skidmore, who, as Bowes pointed out, recently upended a very strong Williams team. These games will take them into the winter break.
It will be a difficult run, but it will not be one that makes or breaks Wentworth.
“Whether we win or lose, if the guys give 100 percent, that’s all you can ask for as a coach. The wins and losses will take care of themselves,” said Bowes.
There is no doubt that the coming weeks are important, but without the excellent start, these games wouldn’t be so important.
“I can’t tell you I expected it,” said Bowes of the unprecedented 6-0 start.
“We don’t really have any superstars on our teams. We do it with four lines. It has to be an entire team effort for us to have success. We’ve had eleven freshmen in the lineup every night. It’s been a pleasant surprise how well the freshmen have done. And the veterans have stepped up to fill the roles of the six veterans we lost last year [to graduation].”
Two veterans stand out from that group. Senior Captain Tim Yakimowsky is 8-3–11 and has two power-play, two shorthanded, and two game-winning goals in the first six games. That is the kind of performance that just makes you say, “Wow.” He earned USCHO Offensive Player of the Week Honors last week.
Sophomore Raj Banghoo is 4-0, with a 1.25 GAA, and a .960 save percentage. Those numbers are downright frightening for opponents.
Both players had very good years last year, but both seem to have stepped up their game and taken it to the next level thus far this season.
“Timmy is just an outstanding hockey player,” said Bowes of his senior captain. “He’s been a little overlooked throughout college hockey I think. But he’s our captain and he is definitely our leader. He can get it done.”
Bowes cited Yakimowsky’s quick release and offensive awareness as his best assets.
Regarding Raj Banghoo, Bowes said, “Banghoo has been phenomenal in the net.”
He made sure not to discount his other goaltender, junior Jamie Vanek (2-0, 2.00 GAA, .923%), but he also made sure to point out that Banghoo has stepped up his game to the point where, along with Yakimowsky, he could be in the running for some serious post-season recognition.
“There’s no reason [Yakimowsky and Banghoo] can’t be in the running for All-American awards towards the end of the year,” said Bowes.
All-Americans or no All-Americans, championships in March or no championships in March, this has been a start that is second to none in Wentworth history. Good luck to the Leopards the rest of the way. Although something tells me that they won’t be needing it.
Two years ago, if you would have told an ECAC Northeast observer that Curry would have a 5-1 record with wins over Fitchburg and SNHU, and that one of their players would be the USCHO D-III Offensive Player of the Week in the early season, it would have been likely that the observer would give you a little chuckle and a “yeah, right.” That scenario alone speaks to the job that Curry coach Bob Davies and his crew of assistants have done in turning this program around. They have done it with youth, and it is with that youth that they hope to succeed in the near and distant future.
Curry is 5-1, with its only loss coming to a strong ECAC West team, Hobart. With two freshman, Sean Pero (2-7–9) and Brian Doherty (7-1–8), leading the team in scoring, and with 14 of the 17 goal scorers this year being underclassmen, the future is clearly bright in Milton.
The goaltending numbers are not flashy, as sophomore Phil Belmont and senior Ryan Wood are a combined 5-1 (3.67 GAA, .881 save percentage), but they are certainly getting the job done. And that is all that matters.
If the Colonels can continue to play the way they have thus far look out, Curry is for real.
Friday night, Curry will be tested when it travels to LVC for a battle between conference unbeatens. It should be a great game as Curry tries to up its record to 6-1. Saturday, the Colonels will be at Neumann for a non-conference game. After LVC on Friday, Curry’s next conference action will be Tuesday when it travels to Framingham State for an 8:15 contest with the Rams.
Last week I wondered if the sleeping giant that had been UMass-Dartmouth hockey in the early season had woken up from its slumber. Last weekend’s performance answered that question. The Corsairs proved that they are alive and kicking right now, taking home the Babson Invitational title with wins over two excellent non-conference opponents, Utica and Babson.
The Corsairs spanked Utica 6-2 despite being outshot 35-18 in the game on Saturday. They followed that up on Sunday with a 2-0 blanking of tournament host Babson.
While the incumbent goaltender for the Corsairs has been out, freshman goaltender Kevin McGowan (Hingham, Mass., Trinity-Pawling) seems to have emerged as the number one guy, at least until Ryan Grant is back. McGowan has played the bulk of the minutes and has posted an impressive 5-1 record in seven games played. His 1.75 GAA and .928 save percentage are not too shabby either, as those numbers rank McGowan in the top three in every goaltending statistical category in the conference.
“McGowan has taken the job and run with it,” said coach John Rolli. He certainly has. Continued solid goaltending will be a key the rest of the way.
As mentioned, UMD won the Babson Invitational, which is huge for the team and, I might add, a couple of great wins for the conference as a whole.
“This past weekend was a big confidence builder for us. Winning the Babson tournament was a big lift,” said Rolli. “In the first few [regular-season] games, we just couldn’t put the puck in the net. In the last four games we’ve scored 17 and only given up four. With the wins, we’ve established ourselves to ourselves.”
So what is different now? Why has UMD so much better as of late? For starters, Rolli pointed out, six of the top forwards were out of the lineup for a few games. Sean Young has only played in four of eight games, Shawn Alles has only played in five of eight, and Walter Siggins has played in only six of eight. With all of those guys back, healthy and in the lineup, we are seeing the real Corsair squad from night to night. Obviously, that makes a big difference.
So where does UMass Dartmouth go from here? The 4-2 loss to Fitchburg on Wednesday night is a bit of a setback, but the team’s goals can still be attained.
“Our major goal is to try to secure a home playoff game,” said the coach.
If the Corsairs keep playing like they have of late, that is certainly a realistic goal.
While one team I characterized as a sleeping giant seemingly has awaken from their slumber, another team, Fitchburg State, hasn’t quite come out of hibernation yet. It is getting there, but it seems like it will need a few more wins to completely come out of their slump.
Fitchburg peppered Suffolk goalie Matt Consentino with 46 shots and only gave up 24 on Monday, but the Falcons only came out Walter Brown Arena with a 1-1 tie. They followed that up with a great 4-2 win over UMass-Dartmouth.
A 3-3-2 overall record (0-3 in the conference) has to be very frustrating for the Falcons, who have long been a league power. They simply have to start scoring goals. Fitchburg’s offense is functioning at a three goals per game clip. Not bad, but not great either. It will need to start improving upon that number should it hope to contend for a home playoff berth.
One encouraging sign for Fitchburg is the fact that senior forward Jeff Brodeur (4-5–9) has three goals in his last two games, including two against a tough UMD squad. A few of his teammates appear to be heating up as well. Sebastien Corbeil (4-4–8), Greg Horan (3-5–8) and Shane Coleman (2-5–7) have all been producing as of late. The Falcons will need those guys to continue their offensive production.
Fitchburg travels to Framingham State on Saturday for a 7 p.m. tilt.
The Rams woes continued this past week, although they did muster up their first non-loss of the season in Sunday’s 5-5 tie with UMass-Boston. That may be something for Framingham to build on.
Junior forward Matt Anderson’s play has been encouraging. He is 7-4–11 in the first eight games of the season, and he has a power-play goal and a shorthanded goal to his credit.
However, Framingham has had trouble in the defensive end. It is being outshot by an average of 53-21 and, as a result, is being outscored, 6.62 to 2.62 per game. You cannot win games giving up over fifty shots. There is simply no way. The Rams must solve this problem to turn their season around.
They will try and turn things around when they host Fitchburg on Saturday.
Johnson and Wales
You never schedule games to lose them, obviously. But sometimes you know you might take your lumps when you schedule the likes of Bowdoin, Colby and RIT, three of the traditionally strongest teams in all of division III hockey. And sometimes, you can schedule games in order to make your team better for the long haul and to harden them up for conference play.
That seems to be the thinking Coach Lou Izzi had when he scheduled three of the very best teams in division III in consecutive games. Thus far, the results have not been that bad, considering you’re playing the absolute cream of the crop.
Saturday’s 5-3 loss to Bowdoin was closer then it looks on paper, as Bowdoin added an empty netter with only five seconds left in the game to ice the victory.
And Sunday’s 3-2 loss to Colby, “went right down to the wire,” as Coach Lou Izzi put it. A crossbar was hit and, with a bounce of the puck here and a bounce of the puck there, things might have been different.
Izzi really felt like the Wildcats were in both games.
“Once we adjusted to the speed we really started to take the play to them. It went back and forth. It could have gone either way,” Izzi said.
The Wildcats, while disappointed in the losses, are not discouraged at all. They used the games as momentum builders for the rest of the way.
“I think we grew up as a team this weekend. We schedule these games to get us prepared for winning the conference,” said Izzi. “There’s no such thing as a moral victory, but we told our guys that’s why we schedule these games.”
It only gets tougher for the Wildcats as they travel to RIT to take on the number one ranked team in the country.
Nichols is one of the teams that did not see a lot of action in the last week, so not much has changed from what was written about them in last week’s column. There is not much you can say about their 8-1 loss to Stonehill except that they had a bad night and caught Stonehill on a good night I guess.
Nichols will play at Neumann on Friday and at LVC on Saturday. For the sake of the Bison, they had better come to play on Saturday after a long road trip and a game the night before or else it could get ugly. Next Tuesday, Nichols hosts Assumption and then travels to Hooksett, N.H. for a game with SNHU on Thursday.
Last week was not so kind to the Panthers of Plymouth State. They went 0-3, losing games to St. Scholastica, SNHU and New England College.
For Plymouth, it just is not happening on all fronts. Offensively, it is not clicking. It is not generating shots and its leading scorer, freshman Kyle Poirier, has only three points. Defensively, the Panthers have not been that bad, but their goaltending and penalty killing (68.0%) have not been up to par to this point.
Plymouth has not been able to put a string of good games together. Should it grind out some wins pretty soon, look for it to pull out of this funk. It is off until Friday, Dec. 7, when it hosts Lebanon Valley.
Southern New Hampshire
SNHU had mixed results at the PAL Cup, one of the many Thanksgiving tournaments that ECACNE teams participated in. It went 1-1 on the weekend.
The Penman were downed by a stifling St. Anselm team, 3-1, on Saturday.
They followed that up with a 7-1 thrashing of Plymouth State. The Penman wasted no time, throwing up six goals before Plymouth could answer with their lone goal of the contest. The Penman potted one with 23 ticks on the clock for good measure.
The game with Curry was an interesting one. Dare I, in late November, say that the game was a possible playoff preview? No, I won’t say it. I’ll just ask the question and leave it at that. Nonetheless, prognostications aside, the game was a good one.
Curry had a 4-1 lead heading into the latter stages of the game before SNHU made things interesting and more than a little uncomfortable for Curry fans around the five-minute mark. That is when they scored two power-play goals in the span of 14 seconds to pull the score within one. SNHU pulled the goalie with 28 seconds left and peppered the Ryan Wood with 14 shots in the third but it was to no avail. Curry pulled out the hard earned win, 4-3.
Offensively, the Penman have been paced by Michael Flynn and Nick Nugent who each have four points. Scoring has not been as much of a problem as Leclerc and SNHU fans had feared before the season. Twelve different players have at least one tally thus far, and even senior defenseman Steve Acropolis is getting in on the act with his two goals on the young season. That doubles his total season output from a year ago.
Defense, as anticipated by Leclerc in the preseason, has been a strength thus far for the Penman. They are holding opponents to a miserly 2.25 goals per contest. The goaltending has been handled largely by sophomore Brian Holland (1-2-0, 2.67GAA, .925%) and he has held up pretty well. Senior Chris Vokes also played well in his lone appearance of the season, posting 17 saves on 18 shots. The Penman will continue to be solid defensively.
SNHU will take their show on the road, traveling to the beautiful state of Rhode Island on Saturday for what should be a very exciting matchup with Salve Regina. On Thursday the Penman will host Nichols.
One team that used this past week to right the proverbial ship was Stonehill, which went 3-0 since last week’s column. As of press time Thursday night, the score of the WNEC game is unknown but the result should not alter the momentum the Chieftains have built up recently unless they, in what would be a bizarre turn of events, get blown out. But hey, stranger things have happened.
Anyway, back to last week’s action. Stonehill squeaked out a 4-3 victory over a struggling UMass-Boston team on Saturday. Sunday afternoon it defeated Tufts to the tune of 7-4. An impressive win. But the score that really has to stick out to a lot of people is the 8-1 drubbing of Nichols. In years past, this might have been expected, but Nichols is much improved and the win is really one to build on for the Chieftains. The snipers must have come to play in this one, as Stonehill scored eight goals on only 34 shots.
One sniper worth mentioning is Brendan Flemming, whose four-goal second period against Tufts is the kind of night he’ll be bragging to his grandkids about. The game earned him ECAC Northeast Player of the Week honors, and he earned honorable mention as the runner up in the USCHO Offensive Player of the Week race. Flemming leads the team with a 6-5–11 line.
Not to be overlooked are the offensive contributions as of Thursday night of Jeff Rowe 4-5–9 and Rob Pascale 3-6–9. They will undoubtedly reach double figures soon.
Stonehill, at 4-3-0, is starting to look like the team many thought it could be before the season started. Look for it to only get better. It will travel to Tufts for a rematch with the Jumbos on Tuesday.
Heading into Monday’s tilt against Fitchburg, Suffolk was 0-4. A tie with a traditionally strong team like Fitchburg is therefore an encouraging sign. Sure, you’d like to win but sometimes a tie can be all you need to break out of a slump, especially if your goalie heats up. Matt Consentino’s 45 save performance has to be a big boost for the Rams and they are hoping is indeed on the verge of a hot streak.
Thus far, the Ram offense has been paced by junior forward Scott Goodman (3-4–7), sophomore forward Ryan Cikacs (3-2–5), and freshman defenseman Ricky Gigante, whose 2-3–5 line and one powerplay goal has him at third in scoring amongst defensemen in the conference.
Suffolk will try to right the ship when it travels to Worcester State on Saturday.
Western New England College
Western New England College is an enigmatic 2-4-0 in the young season. It is tough to figure out. The Golden Bears have posted very nice wins against Nichols, 5-2 and Framingham State, 6-4, and they stayed close with good teams, as in the 3-1 loss to Wentworth and the 2-1 loss to Assumption. But then there are the beatings they have taken from teams like Fitchburg and Curry. Chalk it up to youth and inexperience maybe.
Thursday night’s score with Stonehill is not known as of press time but that will be an important game for WNEC. If it can pull out an upset, it will certainly be a huge victory. If the Golden Bears get blown out it will be another example of their inconsistent play. If it is a close game and a loss, well, again this is a tough team to gauge. Either way, UMass-Dartmouth is coming to town on Saturday so WNEC better be ready to play.
Their last game before the break will be home against Suffolk. That game will be played next Tuesday.
The Lancers hosted Salem State last Sunday and took it on the chin, 7-2. There is no shame in that though, Salem State should be one of the stronger teams out of the East. However, 1-4-2 overall is a very poor record. At the same time, it may not be a good indicator of how good of a team. In other words, it is a deceiving 1-4-2.
Worcester is a better team than that. Three of their four losses were only lost by one goal and the ties obviously could have gone either way. The point is, according to a few coaches around the league, don’t count Worcester State out yet. It is sure to reverse their fortunes soon. It is another one of those teams who just needs more offensive output. Its power play is an abysmal 9.7 percent and it is scoring under two goals a game.
John Coderre has been solid in net. He has seen over 40 shots three times this season and his save percentage, .907 is holding up. That statistic places him seventh in the conference amongst goaltenders.
If WSC can find a way to muster up some offensive production and it continues to get respectable goaltending, it will undoubtedly be a team in contention come March.
The Lancers will host Suffolk on Saturday, and travel to Fitchburg for a big game against the Falcons on Tuesday. Worcester will cap off the first semester with a game against familiar ECAC Northeast foe Utica next Friday. (Here’s a rhetorical, tongue in cheek question — is there anyone Utica is not playing this year? Just curious.)
A few teams had last week off so there is not much to talk about as far as they are concerned.
Assumption was off. It travels to St. Anselm on Saturday for a 5 p.m. tilt. It will take the 10-minute drive to Auburn, Mass. to take on the Bison of Nichols.
Lebanon Valley was also off. It will be busy this weekend facing Curry on Friday and Nichols on Saturday. Both games are home games for the Dutchmen, who look to remain perfect in their conference record.
And Finally …
On the other side of the coin, if you are in your mid-forties and you instinctively bob your head to the music the instant House of Pain’s “Jump Around” comes over the PA system at a hockey game, you’re clearly the man.
Bonus points go to the guy who bobs his head and wears a random hockey jersey that is a replica of neither team participating in the contest. You know what I mean here. This is the same guy who just won’t let go of that Jay Miller jersey from the mid-eighties. In fact, the Jay Miller jersey would be the wardrobe of choice should he decide to attend say, a BU vs. Northeastern game at Walter Brown some night. Again, this guy is “The Man,” and that is an undeniable fact.
The one that puzzles me is the guy who gets to the front of the urinal line and, despite the gigantic lines streaming out of the bathroom, refuses to use the smaller kiddie sized one. What’s that all about? Just use it. I don’t think anyone is going to point at you, a la Nelson from the Simpsons, and go “Haa haa.” What is the holdup though? This is an especially strange dilemma for a lot of short men I’ve noticed.