The first-ever game between Elmira and Hobart was during the 1973-74 season when Elmira formed a club team. The Soaring Eagles beat Hobart 9-2 in that contest, starting a string of successes versus the Statesmen. The two teams wouldn’t meet again until the 1983-84 season, playing regularly every year after that.
Between 1983-84 and 2001-02, Elmira amassed an astounding 33-1 record against Hobart, the only blemish coming when the Statesmen finally beat Elmira on November 8, 1992, by a 7-5 score at the Geneva Recreation Center.
On Friday, Hobart erased that “1″ in the win column against Elmira and wrote in a “2″. Even more stunning was that the 6-5 victory came at Elmira.
In the game on Friday, the Soaring Eagles had built a 4-1 lead by midway through the second period, and things seemed to be going their way. Hobart’s Edward Poirier scored late in the second period to narrow the margin, but it was still looking like Elmira would roll over Hobart.
That is until the third period. The Soaring Eagles were caught looking past Hobart to the game against RIT on Saturday, and Hobart took advantage of the mental lapse.
“I think there was some [looking past] after the second period,” said Elmira coach Tim Ceglarski. “Our guys were sitting back, thinking they had already won, and we still had another period to play.”
Hobart ripped in three goals in the first 12 minutes of the third period, including a power-play goal and a shorthander. Just like that, Elmira found itself reeling, trailing by a goal.
“Elmira is a good team and they can exploit you pretty quick,” said Hobart coach Mark Taylor. “They got the lead and got us backed into a corner going into the third period. It was really a problem with how their guys came out in the third period. The puck bounced our way in the third period a couple of times and that was probably the difference.”
Dean Jackson scored for Elmira to tie the game 5-5, but Craig Levey scored the game winner for Hobart with less than two minutes to play to steal the victory.
The win guarantees Hobart its first winning season since the 1992-93 season, when the Statesmen amassed a 14-12 record. Hard work and a can-do attitude seem to be paying off for Hobart this season.
“We pride ourselves in hard work,” said Taylor. “I want passionate hockey teams. I want a spirited program. I want kids who come to practice with a smile on their face. If you’re not excited to be here, you are going to have a tough time with me.”
In the other league contest on Friday, RIT held serve against Utica 8-3. The Tigers took advantage of Utica’s penalty problems in the first period by scoring five goals, four on the power play and one shorthanded. After that, Utica got back on the game plan, and played RIT to a 3-3 tie over the final two periods. But the deficit dug in the opening stanza was just too much to overcome.
The results from Friday’s games made Saturday contests even more important for all four teams involved. Elmira’s loss meant it had lost the cushion from its lead, and was now in a real race with RIT and Manhattanville for the top spot.
Hobart’s win gave it a huge leg up in their fight for a playoff spot. Utica now needed to sweep the Statesmen, or split and garner a win against RIT or Manhattanville just to keep pace.
Elmira and RIT dueled to a 5-5 tie in another classic between longtime rivals on Saturday. The Tigers stormed out to a 3-0 lead early in the second period, and it looked like RIT might have its way with Elmira. But, as many opponents have found out, no lead is safe in the Thunderdomes.
Four straight goals gave Elmira the lead by eight minutes into the third period, and the ‘Domes were rockin’. RIT showed a level of character in a tough road contest that it hadn’t displayed yet this season, and rose to give Elmira a fight. The two teams traded goals before RIT’s Ryan Fairbarn scored with a rocket from the top of the slot with five minutes remaining in regulation to knot the game 5-5.
Overtime was wide-open, but despite an Elmira power play in the last 1:44, the game was still tied when time expired.
Meanwhile, Utica and Hobart were also battling it out on Saturday night. This game was a seesaw affair where every time Utica would score a goal to take the lead, Hobart answered to tie. This back-and-forth happened three times, and resulted in Hobart and Utica tied at 3-3 as the third period wound down.
The game came down to a mistake by Hobart’s Edward Poirier that cost the Statesmen. After a whistle for offsides, Poirier rifled a blast onto the Utica net and was awarded a two-minute penalty. Utica’s Jeff Mohney scored on the ensuing power play and the Pioneers held on to the 4-3 victory.
“We really wanted that second game,” said Taylor. “We felt that we didn’t take care of what we needed to take care of. [Utica] deserved to win that game. We did some good things, but it wasn’t the way we wanted Saturday to go.”
For Hobart, it was a disappointing end to an exciting weekend. But for Utica, the victory kept them in the playoff race.
The four league contests last weekend really didn’t clarify the playoff picture at all.
Elmira’s loss to Hobart took away most of the Soaring Eagles’ cushion in the standings. But Elmira still owns the common-opponent tiebreakers against RIT and Manhattanville for the regular-season title.
The tie between RIT and Elmira on Saturday provided no insight either.
Hobart’s victory over Elmira gave the Statesmen a huge leg up in their bid to make the playoffs. However, that advantage was neutralized on Saturday when Hobart lost to Utica, the other contender for the fourth playoff spot.
Manhattanville’s only contest was outside the league, so that didn’t illuminate anything.
So it is status quo after last weekend. Elmira is still a nose ahead in the race for the regular-season title, followed closely by RIT and Manhattanville. Utica and Hobart are still vying for the last remaining playoff spot, or maybe higher if one of the other three stumbles.
Around The Rinks
The trip from RIT’s Ritter Arena to the last stop on our tour of ECAC rinks is an easy one. Simply head east on the New York State Thruway for about two hours, jump off at exit 31, south on Genesee Street, then west on Oriskany Street and the Utica Auditorium appears on the right.
Utica Memorial Auditorium – home of the Utica College Pioneers
Home Locker Room: A
Visiting Locker Room: D
Spectator Seating: A
Game Atmosphere: B+
Press Facilities: B
Game Facilities: A
Rink Aesthetics: A
Overall Grade: 87.5% (B+)
Completed in 1960, the Utica Aud was a mechanical marvel of its time. It was one of the first venues to use a two-layer, pre-stressed cable suspension system to support the roof. This system can still be seen today amongst the rafters of the arena.
The Aud has been home to just about every kind of indoor entertainment event possible. From concerts of local bands and world-famous groups to hockey, Ice Capades and circuses, this building has seen it all. It has hosted ice hockey at every level, including the most prestigious college event, the Division I Final Four, in 1962.
For the last two years it has been the home of the newborn Utica College men’s and women’s teams. Together, those teams and coaching staffs have been quickly building a fan following.
One of the more interesting things as I travel around the league is to watch all of the little pre-game rituals and traditions that are employed by teams to bring good luck. It is these little idiosyncrasies that show the characters of the game. Many of the rituals are performed outside of the public limelight, in locker rooms or hallways. One of the more obvious ones at Utica is how the warm-up pucks are stacked neatly in a pyramid at the center of each blue line before the teams take the ice.
The best feature of the Aud is the atmosphere of the place, even when it is empty. This rink has the feel of small-town professional hockey. The individual seats arrayed in a deep bowl. The scoreboard hanging over center ice. The massive horn set squarely over one end of the ice just waiting to proclaim a Utica goal. This building has witnessed thousands of hockey games over the past 40 years, from youth level to the AHL, and you can feel the history of those games hanging in the air.
The Aud was even used during filming of that most classic of all hockey films, Slapshot.
Physical amenities are also present. Utica College built gorgeous home locker rooms for both teams. The ice facilities are kept up very well and the rink is well maintained.
Concessions are very good, and the Aud has something for sale to the general public that no other rink in the league can boast: beer! For many, that raises the scores for the Aud by itself.
The biggest shortcoming of the Aud is the visiting locker rooms. For several years, the Aud was the home of the Ice Capades show. To support that, the facility staff renovated several rooms on the lower level to accommodate the unique needs of the entertainment skaters. The rooms were outfitted with large mirrors running the length of most walls, with counters and plenty of lighting to enable the skaters to prepare for shows.
Unfortunately, the visiting teams now used these for locker rooms. Equipped with folding chairs, and with no real place to layout equipment bags or sticks, these rooms are ill suited for use as locker rooms for hockey.
This installment concludes our tour of the ice rinks around the ECAC West. Hopefully you have enjoyed the tour as much as I have. The ECAC West is blessed with several arenas that are amongst the tops in Division III hockey. If you get a chance to travel around the league to follow your favorite team, take a moment to look around the facility you are in, and appreciate it for what it has to offer.
A would like to extend a big “thank you” to all of the readers who wrote me emails or stopped by at games to talk about the various facilities.
Game of the Week
This weekend, the same teams that competed last weekend will switch rinks and skate in the opposite direction.
The Friday contests should be the highlights this go-round. Utica travels to Hobart in a very important game for both teams. Utica earned half of the series sweep it needs last Saturday, and must win again to jump over Hobart in the playoff race. A Pioneer loss will drop their chances of making the playoffs significantly. Hobart hopes to dash the hopes of Utica and secure the fourth playoff spot for itself.
“We’ve got to get it done,” said Taylor. “But the realistic side of it is that we don’t only need to get this done, but we need to win the other games as well. This weekend is an exciting weekend.”
Elmira and RIT tangle again on Friday, this time at RIT’s Ritter Arena. Last weekend’s tie was another spectacular game between these rivals. Expect nothing less this time.
“We get them back in our barn on Friday, and it’s going to be an emotional game,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson.
Elmira had a strong third period last weekend, and the Soaring Eagles hope to carry that into Ritter Arena.
“Hopefully, the momentum we had in the third period will carry over,” said Ceglarski. “[Last Friday] was another great hockey game between two great rivals.”
The bell should be ringing for Round 2 any moment now.