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This Week in ECAC Northeast

College Hockey:
This Week in the ECAC Northeast: Jan. 17, 2002

Chieftains Have Fun In the Sun

Stonehill won its second tournament title of the season by capturing the California AHA Tournament held in Lakewood. They defeated Salve Regina on Friday 5-3 and edged the Chicago-area entry in the tournament, Lake Forest, to the tune of 3-1 on Sunday.

Congrats to the Chieftains and goaltender Billy Whitfield, who earned ECAC Honor Roll honors for the week for his championship game performance in which he made 39 saves. Rob Pascale was 1-4–5 on the weekend and figured in four of the five Stonehill goals against Salve. Kudos to him as well. Speaking of Salve, that was another of the three ECAC Northeast teams which accepted the invitation to play in the tournament, becoming Stonehill’s first victim of the weekend but following that up with a statement-making 6-2 win over Curry.

Leading Seahawk scorers Matt Hillberg (6-11–17) and Adam Asselin (6-9–15) did their part. Hillberg, in particular, exploded with a 1-2–3 line against Curry. Asselin, a freshman, had a goal and an assist against Curry, as did junior Eddie Maurer.

Is this a sign of things to come? Anyone who remembers last year’s run and considers the fact that the Seahawk roster is dotted with underclassmen has to be encouraged. Couple the continued seasoning youth with the strong leadership provided by the experienced juniors and solid d-man Jack Wallace, the team’s lone senior, and you have to think of the Seahawks as potential competitors come playoff time.

Curry was the third Northeast entry in the “California Gold Rush,” but didn’t live up to last week’s ‘A’ grade over the weekend. Curry took its lumps, losing a close one against Lake Forest 6-5 and, as mentioned, got beat pretty good by Salve. Any lingering questions about Curry’s validity as a contender will most likely be answered by Saturday’s must-see matchup with Wentworth.

Woe is Wentworth

Just kidding. Who could be dissatisfied with the best start in school history, a 12-2 record? Wentworth did suffer only its second blemish of the season on Sunday against a tough Oswego squad, but there is no shame in that, especially when you consider it came the day after Saturday night’s rousing 6-5 victory over a visiting SUNY Cortland team that is anything but a slouch.

It is worth mentioning that Tim Yakimowsky recorded his second hat trick of the season against Cortland on Saturday. He also scored the Leopards’ lone goal against Oswego.

Again, get to Saturday’s 4 p.m. matchup at Curry if you can. It should be a game worth taking in.

UMass-Dartmouth

Is there any doubt in anyone’s mind about UMass-Dartmouth these days? There shouldn’t be. The Corsairs are winners of their last six and they are only getting better.

Eric Frank, in his first two games of the season is already 1-3–4. Improved health and added depth along with the very solid goaltending of Kevin McGowan (11-1-0, 2.19 GAA, .912) are elevating the Corsairs amongst the cream of the crop.

How ‘Bout Them Lancers?

Worcester State had won three in a row heading into Thursday night’s matchup with Framingham by a combined score of 19-2. Wow. Another team rounding into shape? Possibly.

Justin Vallas, last year’s ECAC Northeast Co-Rookie of the Year, has 10 points in the last three contests heading into Thursday night. He is heating up and Guiney has to be salivating at that thought.

An Exciting Weekend

This weekend will see a lot of teams beginning their second half. In addition, the schedule is heating up big time.

Let’s see: there are Saturday’s matchups between Curry and Wentworth, Lebanon Valley at Salve Regina and Worcester State at Stonehill.

Sunday will see number one, Johnson & Wales, face off against number two, Lebanon Valley, in Providence. This game could be a preview of the league championship. Again, get there if you can. A Saturday trip to Milton, Mass., followed by a Sunday drive to Providence wouldn’t be a bad idea for those eager to take in some playoff-caliber games.

More Grades

Before beginning, let me reiterate what was written last week: don’t take these grades too seriously. Given that they are the bottom teams in the league, they are not going to be glowing.

That said, like I wrote last week, I’m an easy grader. I’ll try to look at the positives and not dwell on the negatives. You want venom? You’re in the wrong place — check out the Boston newspapers.

Worcester State

Even though WSU has won four games this season, its record is officially 3-8-3 because one of those victories came in an exhibition against Westfield State.

The Lancer bright spots are mostly young guys. Justin Vallas, see above, comes to mind. Another guy having a good season is freshman John Coderre. He’s played in 13 games officially and has some good numbers, including a stingy .902 save percentage. No doubt he will solidify Worcester between the pipes in the next coming years as he will only get better.

One older guy contributing a lot to the team is senior Rick Casavant. The defenseman out of Halifax, Mass. is contributing offensively as well as providing some steady play at the point. He is 2-8–10 on the season. Not to be overlooked are 6-4, 230 lb. senior Chris Susi (5-3–8) and junior transfer (UMass-Dartmouth) Matt Cruickshank, who has added a scoring punch to his repertoire. Cruickshank has already surpassed his season total of a year ago with a 3-6–9 line.

The Lancers will host Curry on Saturday night for what should be an intriguing matchup.

Overall, the Lancers get a C but look to be building some momentum.

Nichols College

The Bison are 3-9-0 on the season but have been struggling as of late, dropping a tough one to WSC in their last game heading into Thursday night.

Take a look at the Nichols roster and statistics though and the future appears bright. Every player except for one who has recorded a point this year is either a freshman or a sophomore, an astonishing fact.

Mike Loftus (5-7–12), Dan Torti (6-2–8) and Kris Ahern (5-2–7) are leading the way offensively. Defenseman Dave Abramo leads the blueliners with a 0-7–7 line.

Nichols has a tough go the rest of the way as they will have played JWU Thursday night followed by upcoming matchups with the likes of Wentworth, Fitchburg and UMass-Dartmouth. Should they steal at least one of those games and win the games they should win against some of the bottom rung teams left on the schedule, they will be in decent shape for a playoff berth. It is mathematically possible anyway.

Overall grade for the Bison? C+/B-. Don’t overlook the youth factor. Don’t discount their potential either.

Suffolk University

Suffolk is another young team taking its lumps. The Rams are 1-6-2 overall heading into Thursday night. On the bright side, they will have an opportunity to turn things around with 13 games left on their schedule.

Like Nichols, if they can win a few they aren’t supposed to win and beat the teams that they are capable of beating, they can possibly put something together in the way of a playoff bid. Time will tell.

Freshman Ricky Gigante is a legitimate weapon on the blue line for the Rams. He is tied for third on the team in scoring with three goals and five assists on the season including two power-play goals. Also contributing offensively are Scott Goodman (3-8–11), leading goal scorer Ryan Cikacs (6-3–9) and Ricky Morrell (5-3–8).

All things considered, Suffolk gets a C/C-. Some more wins could improve that grade come the end of the season.

Western New England College

A commonality amongst the teams towards the bottom of the standings is youth. WNEC is another young team. Add to that the fact that Karl Enroth is in his first year as head coach and didn’t have the benefit of bringing in a recruiting class to call his own, and it can be surmised that it would be tough for the Golden Bears to do better than they have.

That said, WNEC has got to find some offense. No player on the team has double figures in points and the power play is functioning at an abysmal 8.6%. No matter how strong your defense and goaltending, you cannot win hockey games without an offense.

Encouraging signs for the Bears are very close losses against two of the best teams in the league, a 3-1 loss to Wentworth and a heartbreaking 5-4 loss to UMD that saw the Bears battle in the last few minutes to try and scratch out the win. Oh well. So goes the season of a youthful team. Again, if the Bears can pull something out of their hats against some of the better teams on the upcoming schedule, WNEC has some hope.

WNEC gets a C.

Framingham State

In the season preview I wrote, “Hockey-wise, Framingham was hurt by graduation, losing a total of eight players. The graduating seniors contributed 85 of the total 197 points of offense, their top goaltender, and a couple of key defensemen. The Rams went 6-18-0 with these players and will try to improve on that record this year. It may be a tall order, though.”

That is an apt summary of the predicament the Rams have found themselves in this season. It has been a tall order for Framingham.

Like Enroth at WNEC, new coach Bob Lavin (formerly of Salve Regina) took the Framingham job during the summer and missed any opportunity to recruit his own class this year. Framingham has shown the effects of this as they have gone 1-10-1 on the season thus far. Ouch.

One of the positives about this team has been the offensive production of guys like junior Billy Burke (11-4–15), junior Matt Anderson (9-5–14) and sophomore Roger Leblanc, whose 2-11–13 line is Adam Oates-like.

What has killed the Rams this year is defense. Their goals per game situation is in the negative to the tune of 6.73 to 2.47 for a 4.27 differential. They are almost the antithesis of WNEC; you cannot win hockey games giving up almost seven goals a game. It just isn’t possible, no matter how strong your offense is.

Like every team in this league, the Rams are not out of it and that has to be their way of thinking the rest of the way. If, as Coach Lavin said in the preseason, this year is one to build on, they will need to start playing a better all around game. Framingham gets a C on the year so far.

Assumption

Assumption has been led by Bob Reddish (6-9–15) and Josh Tierney (7-5–12) offensively. Tierney has been on fire as of late, with back-to-back hat tricks in the two games before the break. Impressive stuff from the talented sophomore.

The Hounds have suffered from a lackluster power play. Assumption has only three (!) power-play goals on the season, and that is not a misprint. Obviously, the Greyhounds will have to rectify that situation should they hope to contend.

The Hounds have some big ‘W’s under their belt: UMass-Dartmouth, Wesleyan and Salve come to mind. Their biggest upcoming games are against their D-II opponents SNHU and Stonehill. They need to beat up on those guys to mount some momentum for the D-II playoffs.

Things aren’t all sunny in Worcester, though. Academic problems have hurt the Hounds. Assumption will go into the second half minus one of their top two goalies and their third-leading scorer. Gotta go to class and do your work, boys. Remember that, all you youngsters out there.

For the season thus far, the 6-4-1 Hounds get a B-. If they can get some more big wins they could potentially inch their way towards the A category.

Southern New Hampshire

New school name, new uniforms and a new team. That is the theme for Southern New Hampshire this year. The Penmen had to replace no less than 70% of their offensive production lost through graduation this past year. Taking that into consideration, the Penmen have done pretty well.

Their defense was supposed to be their strength, and it has been. Steve Acropolis, Dan Brown and Bryan Favreau are the main statistical contributors on the backline.

On the forward corps, the Penmen have been remarkably strong. Senior Nick Nugent (5-10–15) and freshman Chris Russo (3-10–13) have done their part scoring-wise.

A real key for SNHU has been the power play, which is averaging 25% on the year.

The Penmen get a B on the year. Some might argue that the grade is a bit high for a team that is only .500 at 6-6, but the amount of departed talent SNHU has had to replace cannot be overstated.

Stonehill

The Chieftains have been an offensive juggernaut this year, except for that Norwich game which everyone should just file away into their selective memory section of their brain when judging this team.

Eight players have double figures in points for Stonehill. Rob Pascale (8-16–24) and Brendan Flemming (11-10–21) have been fantastic this year. Flemming has six power-play goals, a stat that doubles some teams’ entire output on the man advantage. Pretty good.

The Chieftain power play is functioning at an eye-popping 27.1%, something which Harlow places a great emphasis on, for obvious reasons. That has helped Stonehill immensely this year.

Something else that has helped Stonehill is the emergence of their goaltenders. Junior Phil Graves (5-2, 4.64, .838), freshman Billy Whitfield (2-3, 4.15, .872) and Jared Waimon (1-1, 1.52, .938) have been strong between the pipes.

On the backline, Derek McTomney has been providing steady defensive play. The senior has a mere four penalties on the season, a statistic that is unusual among defenseman who play regularly. That is refreshing to see.

Overall, Stonehill earns a B. They have had their struggles but, for the most part, they are a very difficult team to beat — and if you don’t show up defensively, they will make you pay.


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