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This Week in ECAC Northeast

College Hockey:
This Week in the ECAC Northeast: Dec. 13, 2001

For the first time ever … again

It seems that each week the phrase “for the first time ever” is being written in regards to the Northeast, providing further support for the assertion that the league is advancing its national presence at a healthy rate. Once again, we have a week of firsts in the ECACNE.

  • For the first time ever, a Northeast team has dropped out of the top 10 poll. Wentworth’s stumble against Salem State was enough to have them bumped from the poll. It will be interesting to see whether or not they can crack the top 10 again in the second half.
  • For the first time ever, the Northeast has swept the weekly awards in consecutive weeks. For the first time ever, two players from the same Northeast team won the awards. This time the honors went to Lebanon Valley forward Brian Yingling and his teammate, goaltender Kevin Block.

    Yingling, who now averages two points a game, scored an obscene five goals in LVC’s 8-2 victory over Plymouth State. He followed that up with a goal in the 3-0 shutout of Hobart. Over the weekend he had a goal and an assist in LVC’s semi-surprising 7-1 win over Fitchburg. Yingling is on a roll. With a 10-12–22 line Yingling leads the ECAC Northeast in scoring.

    Kevin Block had a shutout against Hobart and only allowed one goal against Fitchburg. The senior is 5-1 on the year and leads the league in goals against with a 1.59 GAA. Block’s .937 save percentage in six games puts him just behind Wentworth goalie Raj Bhangoo, last weeks Defensive POTW, atop the ECACNE save percentage leaders. In his six games played, Block has only allowed nine goals. All of that adds up to a winning formula. Block’s .833 winning percentage is also amongst the Northeast leaders.

    Assumption sophomore forward Josh Tierney will score 46 goals if he continues scoring at the rate he has in the last two games. That would be another first time ever but it is not likely.

    Mathematically possible though. All kidding aside, back to back hat tricks is impressive, so much so that it earned Tierney honorable mention as the runner-up in the Offensive POTW awards and he was named Co-player of the Week by the ECAC Northeast. It is good to see extraordinarily talented Tierney playing up to his potential. As the worn out cliche goes, good things happen when you shoot the puck.

    What’s up, Chief?

    With so many Northeast teams doing so well lately, some teams have been unintentionally overlooked a bit, lost in the proverbial shuffle. One such team is Stonehill.

    The Chieftains are 6-4 overall and they are scoring a ton of goals, they are third in the league in scoring offense. The 6-4 mark is one that a lot of teams would be satisfied with. Scott Harlow is not happy with the record though, although he acknowledges that the early season schedule was arguably the toughest of any ECAC Northeast team.

    “I have mixed emotions. I’m not happy to be 6-4 overall right now. I firmly believe we should be 8-2. [But] I think we’ve had a strong schedule. Every single one of our games was against a real strong team.”

    Certainly the schedule has been difficult. The Chieftains have played the likes of JWU, Wentworth, Tufts, Fitchburg, St. Michael’s, etc. None of their opponents have been pushovers. And Stonehill, according to Harlow, has blown two games.

    “You look at a game like the one with Plymouth State and we outshot them 50-14 and we lose 2-1. We should have come away with a win there,” said the coach.

    One thing that Harlow is concerned with is his team’s overall team defense.

    “We’ve scored a lot of goals in bunches but I really think we are giving up too many soft goals.”

    As an area of concern Harlow pointed to goals being scored on second and third shots, a stat that indicates a lack of clearing in front and a lack of overall intensity in the Chieftains’ own end. For them to succeed in the second half, they will need to change that aspect of their game.

    “We have to play tougher in our end,” said Harlow.

    Let us not focus on the negative, however. Stonehill has been prolific offensively and their goaltending has been above par. Looking solely at the statistics it would appear that Phil Graves (4-2, 4.08 GAA, .861%), with six of 10 games played, has shored up the number one job. As Lee Corso would say, not so fast my friend. Harlow has a unique system for his goaltenders which accounts for the misleading stat.

    “Right now, my three goalies are all playing well, they’re even. I tell them that if they win they will play the next game. It’s pretty much in their hands and that makes my job easier.”

    That explains Graves’ six games played to Billy Whitfield’s three and Jared Alimony’s two. If you win, you stay in so Graves’ five game win streak afforded him more playing time. Goaltending is a nice area to have depth and the Chieftains clearly have that.

    One area of Stonehill’s game that is absolutely clicking on all cylinders is the power play. The Stonehill power play is functioning at an astounding 30%. A good deal of that can be attributed to the players, according to Harlow.

    “We have five or six really skilled guys who are playing the power play. Three of them [Rob Pascale (7-12--19), Brendan Flemming (11-7--18) and Jeff Rowe (6-9--15)] are three of the better forwards anywhere in Division II-III. Obviously, when you put those guys together they are going to do good things. It really takes the coaching aspect out of [the equation].”

    Despite Harlow’s attempt to take himself out of the equation, good coaching cannot be overlooked. Harlow’s philosophy on power plays is interesting and it is obviously working.

    “In the past I think we looked at it like, we have the one man advantage so it should be a little easier.” This should not be the thinking, according to Harlow.

    “I’m really trying to get across to them that the power play is important. You have to work harder on the power play. When you get a power play you have to score a goal. It is a time when you can’t go easy, you have to go harder. And that is what I’m trying to get across to those guys.”

    Apparently, the message has been received loud and clear. At 30%, Stonehill has the best power play in the league.

    Harlow is looking forward to the second half of the season and he is telling his troops that they should too.

    “I tell our kids that after the Norwich tournament, there is not a single game that I don’t think we can win.”

    With the team toughening itself up in the early season schedule, Stonehill looks like a team that will be heard from come playoff time.

    Around the Rinks

    With all but four teams having wrapped up their first semester schedule, a look at the league statistical leaders seems in order. Here are a few observations.

    Five of the top 10 scorers in the league are underclassmen, a statistic that points to the improved talent coming into the league in the last few years.

    Amongst those underclassmen, three are Curry freshmen. Sean Pero (7-13–22), Mike O’Sullivan (8-9–17) and Matt Wargo (9-7–16) are second, seventh and eighth in the league in scoring.

    Fitchburg State senior Jeff Brodeur started out fairly slow but he is on fire as of late, earning USCHO Offensive POTW honors last week. The forward is 7-12–19 in 10 games, a line that puts him at third in the league in scoring.

    On the flip side is Assumption’s Bob Reddish. Reddish started out like a house of fire, scoring 13 points in the first five games. Since then, the junior Co-Captain has scored only two points in his last five games. Don’t fret Assumption fans, Reddish will undoubtedly rediscover his scoring touch in the second half.

    Wentworth’s Tim Yakimowsky is doing all that he can to make a case for coach Bowes’ assertion that he should be considered for All-American honors at the end of the season. The senior forward out of Walpole, Mass is tied for the league lead and is tied for second in the nation in goals scored with 11. He also is tied for the league lead in game winning goals (3) and shorthanded goals (2).

    Wow.

    Also supporting Bowes’ claim for All-American consideration is Raj Bhangoo. The sophomore is 5-1 with a 1.66 GAA and a .952 save percentage.

    Wow.

    Stonehill junior forward Brendan Flemming is also tied for the lead in that category. He is 11-7–18 in 10 games.

    A pair of freshmen are tied for the league lead in the assist category. Curry forward Sean Pero and JWU forward Manu Mau’u (who has to be in the top five for the Coolest Name in College Hockey Award, just ahead of Bhangoo) each have 13 helpers on the season. The two are also atop the league in rookie scoring.

    The aforementioned Stonehill power play has two of their players at the top of power play points category. Brendan Flemming is 6-4–10 on the power play and Rob Pascale, whom Harlow identified as, “a real clutch kid with a great touch around the net,” has a 2-8–10 line on the power play. A word to the wise, don’t take penalties against Stonehill.

    Curry senior Jason Boyle, Wentworth junior Dave Zelasko and Wentworth senior Tim Yakimowsky each have two shorthanded goals. LVC’s Ben Kwon is leading all defensemen in scoring with a 3-9–12 line in 11 games. He is a big part of the LVC defensive corps that leads the league in scoring by defensemen. The Dutchmen D averages 1.64 goals per game.

    Want to win games? Play well in special teams situations. The league leaders in special teams practically mirror the league standings. LVC, Fitchburg, JWU and Wentworth round out the top four.

    And finally…

    Things that Keep Me Up at Night

  • The unintentional irony and borderline clairvoyance of the thoughts portion of this column is getting downright scary. Two weeks ago I almost wrote about O.J. and then he gets in trouble the next week. Last week I quoted Nate Newton talking about O.J. and what does he do? He goes out and gets busted with 175 pounds of marijuana. 175!

    And the unbelievable part is he has done this before — the last time was on Nov. 4 when he had 213 pounds. I guess he didn’t take his own advice and learn from his mistakes.

    I don’t even have a punch line here.


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