Happy New Year
Hey folks. Back from the proverbial dead.
It’s been almost a month between columns, but unfortunately, other than the fourth digit in the year, not much has changed here in the second year of the millennium, especially in the ECAC Northeast.
There were a few noteworthy changes over the past couple of weeks, though, almost all involving out-of-conference games. Fitchburg won the Codfish Bowl. Lebanon Valley beat a top team in the form of Elmira. Wentworth rebounded from its 2-1 loss to an excellent Salem State team with back-to-back victories. Curry continued to impress, earning a respectable tie against Manhattanville. Those are the positives.
The negatives? Well, let’s just say that a few teams are glad the past is in the past. Double-digit losses don’t do anyone any good.
Without much to really write about, I figured I’d take a shot at the old report-card trick: the classic crutch of sports columnists everywhere. We’re halfway done with the season, so it makes sense to take a look back at the goings-on of the first half.
Before I begin, I want to make sure to communicate to you, the reader, that this type of column is supposed to be fun. If you don’t like what you read, don’t put a lot of stock into it. Much like the predictions, these grades are not meant to be taken over-seriously.
This week, the top eight Division III teams in the league. Next week we’ll take a look at the teams currently occupying the bottom of the D-III standings in addition to the three Division II teams.
Johnson and Wales
Well, the Wildcats are in first place in the conference, so they are not doing too badly. Unfortunately, they have zero nonconference wins at 7-8-0. Strange but true.
JWU came into the season with one daunting question; namely, who would fill the shoes of the departed Scott Jacob, who handled virtually all of the goaltending duties last year? Apparently that question has been answered by a pair of freshmen, Bobby Doran (3-5-0, 4.49 GAA, .878%) and Nick Lacroix (4-3, 3.34, .884). The two have been a solid duo, splitting time between the pipes.
The offense has been prolific and Manu Mau’u has been nothing short of sensational. The Californian gets an A+ just for his sweet name alone, but his 11-13–24 line speaks for itself.
Overall, the Wildcats have been excellent in the conference but less than par outside league play. The nonleague final outcomes haven’t been good for JWU, but the Wildcats have been in most every game, so don’t read too much into those eight nonconference losses. Fortunately, in the conference is all that counts in the long run, which is precisely why Izzi scheduled those games. However, for the betterment of the league and for grading purposes, I’d like to see the Wildcats fare a little better outside of the league.
JWU gets a B.
A+. It’s that simple. LVC hasn’t lost since November 2. The Dutchmen are 11-2 overall and undefeated in the conference. And, oh yeah, did I mention they beat Elmira? What else is there to say?
Another A+. The Leopards are only in third place because they do not have enough conference wins. Their only blemish came against a very strong and underrated Salem State team and they have posted wins over the likes of New England College and RIT.
Eight Leopard players are in double figures in points, Raj Bhangoo (7-1, 1.69 GAA, .950%) is nasty and Jamie Vanek (4-0, 2.76, .919) isn’t bad either. Add that to an impressive core of young defensemen and an exceptional group of crafty, gifted forwards and you’ve got a formula for success that Wentworth has ridden to a phenomenal 11-1 record.
The A+ is worth repeating.
The development of the Corsairs has been one of my favorite running plots of the season. Anyone with any knowledge of the UMD program had to know that the early season 6-1 spanking they took from LVC was not indicative of the team’s capabilities. The Corsairs have built some serious momentum and they are now a team to be reckoned with.
Late-season matchups with Wentworth (Feb. 7) and JWU (Feb. 16) should be marked on everyone’s calendar as the teams will be jockeying for playoff positioning without a doubt.
UMD gets an A/B. (I always hated those A/B, C/D, etc. grades in school. Who came up with that? I’m ashamed of myself for giving that as a grade, but it’s appropriate. Look for UMD to be riding the A-Train late in the season.)
Another A+. I’m such an easy grader, but how can you not marvel at what these guys are doing this year? At 7-3-1 the Colonels are having a season completely contrary to the past. The Colonels are the New England Patriots of the ECAC Northeast — from worst to first.
Okay, not quite, but I’m telling you, don’t count these guys out come playoff time. Their freshmen, namely guys like Sean Pero, Mike O’Sullivan and Brian Doherty, are their driving force right now and they are getting some pretty good seasoning. Look for them to make some noise in the playoffs.
For a young team with a new coach and a freshly-painted target on their backs thanks to last year’s playoff run, the Seahawks haven’t done that badly.
In fact, 2-6-1 is not indicative of this team’s ability. They have a good goalie in Chris Burns (2-2, 3.15, .887) and they play their systems pretty well. That should eventually translate to some success on the ice, hopefully soon. Hopefully, it will also translate to some notches in the win column. Overall, a C.
Fitchburg has won its last three, its only games of the second half so far. The Falcons won the Codfish Bowl with a solid ‘W’ over Skidmore and a convincing win over Brockport. Pretty good.
Not good though, has been the enigmatic performance of the first half. Fitchburg has not shown up against some of the top teams in the league, notably JWU, a 7-2 loss, LVC, a 7-1 loss, and Curry, a 5-2 loss. But then again, they beat a very difficult opponent in UMD. Then they tie a struggling Suffolk team. I don’t know, you figure it out.
As expected the Falcons have been paced by Jeff Brodeur. Brodeur is the man for the Falcons as his name seems to help decorate the score sheet every night now. He leads the Falcons in scoring with a 9-16–25 line. He’s got two game winners for good measure.
Fitchburg is always tough, and only getting better. Look for the Falcons to mount a serious playoff run and carry some momentum into the playoffs.
Fitchburg gets a C+, with a note from the teacher noting a poor attendance record. Time to start showing up for all the games, boys.
Plymouth State is in a similar boat as Salve. They had a new coach at the beginning of the season and they are a young squad backboned by one of the better goalies in the league in Larry Forgue. And what do you know, the Seahawks and Panthers are in similar positions in the standings. Plymouth is 2-8.
The goals are going to have to start coming a little easier for the Panthers to make a run. They’re going to need a few guys to step up their play and muck out some goals. The Panthers highest scoring forward, Freshman Kyle Poirier, has six goals and after that, nobody has more than three. That is not going to get it done. If the Panthers have hopes of making the playoffs they will have to start scoring some more goals. Here’s hoping they do.
PSC gets a C.
If I Were Sports God For a Day
Till next time…