There’s an old adage that the games in your schedule count the same whether they are at the beginning of the season, or the end. As league play got underway this past weekend (except for the really early Plattsburgh-Potsdam tilt), there already were some wins that could have a real impact come playoff time.
Fredonia stepped out to a 2-0 record in the SUNYAC with wins over Geneseo and Brockport. The Blue Devils, known for their defense more than their offense in recent years, are averaging almost five goals per game so far. Sophomore Matt Zeman has racked up six goals and nine assists in six games this season, and got five of those assists last weekend.
Picked fifth in the SUNYAC coaches’ poll, could Fredonia be off to the same kind of start it had in 2002-03, when the Blue Devils finished second to Oswego in the regular season?
Geneseo was picked third in that poll, but the Knights dropped both of their games, including a 6-3 upset loss at Buffalo state, giving them a bit of a hole to dig out of right off the bat.
No. 9 Oswego tore through the North Country with wins at Potsdam and at No. 4 Plattsburgh. The win over the Cardinals is especially big; head-to-head between those teams may determine home ice in the postseason.
In the ECAC West, No. 6 RIT and No. 14 Manhattanville each got off to 2-0 starts. The Tigers got revenge on No. 12 Hobart for two straight losses — one for the regular season title and one for the league championship — with a 6-1 drubbing, but just snuck by Utica, 2-1. The Pioneers had outlasted Elmira, 9-8, the night before.
Manhattanville squeaked by Neumann, 2-1, Friday, thanks to a 50-save performance by Neumann frosh goalie Mike Collichio. Collichio hasn’t left the pipes for the Knights since relieving Joshua Vega in the first game of the season against Geneseo, and has a .929 save percentage in seven games. Neumann coach Dennis Williams is looking to build a serious program at Neumann, and with a solid tender, he’s off to a good start.
Manhattanville and RIT each try to protect their 2-0 records this weekend when the Tigers visit the unfriendly confines of the Playland Ice Casino.
In the MCHA, MSOE got off to a 2-0 start with home-and-home wins over Marian.
Speaking of goalies, Oswego coach Ed Gosek finds himself in the same situation George Roll had for several years, it seems: having two top-notch netminders. Lanky sophomore Brett Leonhardt, who backed up Tyson Gajda last season, is joined by freshman Ryan Scott. Scott had 38 saves in the Lakers’ win over Plattsburgh.
Hobart looks to have itself a good one-two tandem in goal, too. All-American Adam Lavelle is joined by rookie Dimitri Papaevagelou. The freshman had a shutout in his first game, 4-0 over Buffalo State, and gave up just one goal in 23-plus minutes of relief against RIT.
Kudos also to Bethel’s Dustin Thompson for his 4-0 shutout against Wisconsin-Stevens point on Friday, and to Jeff Wilde of St. Olaf, with a 39-save shutout Saturday over St. Scholastica, 6-0.
The NCHA and MIAC began their interlocking non-league play this past weekend. It’s a better start for the MIAC than last year. The Minnesotans found themselves on the short end of a 5-9-2 record, but compared to last year’s 38-9-6 record in favor of the NCHA, it shows improvement.
No. 10 St. Thomas took a pair of games, a 5-3 win over No. 2 St. Norbert on Friday, and a 6-2 defeat of No. 13 Lake Forest on Saturday. St. Norbert’s loss was the first time that the Green Knights had dropped two in a row since losing to Elmira and Williams in successive nights at Elmira’s Thanksgiving tournament in 2001. The Green Knights recovered on Saturday with a narrow, 5-4 win over St. Mary’s.
St. Norbert coach Tim Coghlin told the Green Bay Press-Gazette, “Looking at the way we’re playing right now, we don’t need to worry about the NCAA Tournament. … We’re not good enough to win our league right now.” Look for the Green Knights to right the ship, though. They return too many from last year’s national runner-up to not compete for the title again this year.
When is home ice not an advantage? How about when your fans cost you a bench minor?
That’s what happened to Plattsburgh on Saturday in its loss to Oswego. Late in the first period, fans thought the Cardinals had scored, and, as is tradition when the Lakers visit, flooded the ice with tennis balls. Fans got the obligatory warning that further objects would cost the home team a delay of game minor.
Some eyewitness reports say the next object thrown on the ice was a bagel, which is what Oswego fans throw at the Romney Field House, but the home team got a bench minor, as the rules are projectile-neutral. Then another flurry of tennis balls followed a real Plattsburgh goal, a 5-on-3 tally by Paul Kelly. The Cardinals would have remained on the power play, but the ensuing bench minor negated that.
Three years ago, I wrote that I thought the whole practice was pretty stupid and hurt the home team. Oswego’s George Roll hesitated to knock his home fans for throwing bagels and costing the Lakers a penalty in an important game against Plattsburgh: “Did the loss in momentum after Oswego’s first goal or the late bench minor cost the Lakers the game? Outside the Oswego dressing room, coach George Roll said he didn’t think so.
“‘I don’t buy that. They beat us tonight, and that had nothing to do with the outcome,’ said Roll.”
But after Saturday’s game, Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery didn’t hesitate criticizing the fans for the penalties. He told the Press-Republican,
“I’m getting prepared to play with no fans in the building.”
It may be interesting to hear fans’ reaction to that on Emery’s weekly Monday night radio show tonight on WIRY. (You can catch the show, hosted by Ducky Drake, live via Real Audio and hear archives of previous week’s shows at WIRY.com.)
Emery’s absolutely right. Let’s leave the object throwing to the knuckleheads at Cornell when Harvard visits Lynah. RIT once used to throw oranges on “Orange Night”, but abandoned that two decades ago. It’s time for the bagels and tennis balls to become history, too.
Finally, we’ve devoted space here the last two weeks to discuss officiating and NCAA points of emphasis. It doesn’t sound like there’s an east-west disparity so much as an inconsistency between crews. The season’s still young; D-I has started to adjust, and I’m hopeful D-III will too.
Don’t expect coaches to comment any further on it, though, at least not publicly. Some leagues have issued gag orders, I’m told.