In Division II, the Southern New Hampshire Penmen have gotten off to a solid start, despite losing in the finals of the Police Athletic League “Stovepipe” Tournament by a score of 7-2 to Plymouth State. The Penmen won their first three games of the season, and have a record of 4-2.
Coach Rene LeClerc is happy with the start, but still winces at losing the tournament. “We couldn’t score in a ten foot net, and they could score at will.”
When looking at the positives of the early season, LeClerc didn’t pause long: “We’ve played everybody on the roster. All have played. We’ve been able to mix and match, get different people in. When injuries happen, we know they can be filled. That’s good to know.”
One combo that will stay together is that of junior forwards Dominic DiMarzo and Brandon Hammermeister. They are 1-2 in team scoring, with Dimarzo scoring 6 goals and getting 5 assists, and Hammermeister getting 3 goals and 5 assists. LeClerc said he’ll keep putting a different winger out with this pair, but that the talented juniors will stay together.
LeClerc said he’s also been pleasantly surprised by the play of freshman forward Matt Foley (2G-2A-4PTS) and with freshman defenseman Kent Honeyman. “We felt he’d be a player, but not as quickly as he’s done.”
In goal, Matt Courchesne has carried the load, and LeClerc said of him, “he’s played real well. Sunday [Stovepipe Tournament] was an aberration; he was tired from the day before. I’m happy with our goaltending. We need help on defense to keep the shots down. We’re working on it.”
Courchesne has started 5 games, posting a 3-2 record along the way, and the sophomore has a save percentage of .865.
In Division III, the Nichols College Bisons are off to a rousing 6-1-1 start overall, which is the program’s best start ever. “We’re playing well as a team,” coach Lou Izzi stated. “I’m excited that we’re not giving up a lot of goals. We’re not as explosive offensively as I wanted to be, but we’re gelling.”
Izzi would like to see his special teams improve. “Last year we were run and gun, this year, we’ll need to play more defensively.” The Bisons have scored 16 power play goals already, but in 68 chances, good for roughly a 23% success rate. In shorthanded situations, the Bisons have surrendered nine goals in 63 chances.
Izzi is very happy with his goaltending. Sophomore Keith Fink has seen most of the action, compiling a 5-1 record, with a 2.36GAA and a .924 save percentage.
“He’s played very well this year,” Izzi said of his goalie. “He’s a lot stronger this year. He made a commitment in the off-season to gain strength and quickness.”
Izzi also realizes he has to find time for freshman goalie Matt Gassman, who has played well in the three games he’s appeared in, posting a 1-0-1 record, with a 1.82GAA and a nifty .945 save percentage.
In front of the goalies, the defense corps has made Izzi very happy: “Our defense has as good as I’d hoped they would be. All six defensemen have made it difficult for opposing teams to attack our zone.” Senior Mark Malone is the elder statesman on the blue line, and his experience helps with freshmen Colby Jones and Mark Baker.
Offensively, the team is very balanced, with 10 different players scoring power play goals. Izzi knows he has a solid sophomore class, and sophomore forward Kyle Cook currently leads the team in scoring at 6-9–15. Three of his goals have come on the power play. Fellow forwards and classmates Anthony Monte and Rocco Dabecco have also played solid hockey, and are in the top four in team scoring.
Some freshmen have also played a part in Nichols tremendous start. Forward Zeke Costello leads the team in assists with ten, and has also scored twice. Izzi feels that Costello has been a force in the last few games “he’s been all over the ice making things happen. He’s got good speed, and plays two ways.”
Eric Cremer is a ‘true’ freshman, and already has nine points in his first eight games, with 1G-8A. Izzi feels as though he’ll need about 20 games, and then he’ll truly blossom.
First year forward Kris Kransky is off to a good start, with 5G-3A-9PTS. Izzi is very happy with the California native. “He’s extremely ‘coachable.’ He’s so big [6'4", 220lbs.] and he protects the puck so well with his body. I thought it would take a year, but he’s made significant strides.”
Izzi is obviously happy with his squad’s start. “I’m excited to be 4-0 in the conference, and this is our best start in our 47 year history. Everyone at Nichols College is excited about what’s happened. Every game is a tough game, there are no easy games.”
Another team off to a great start is UMass Dartmouth. Long time coach John Rolli spoke about some key times so far in the early season. “We’re coming off a good weekend at the Babson Invitational, plus the Plymouth State College win in overtime was an important league game. The Babson Invitational was important as far as the level of play. Rolli also recognized why the team is off to a 3-0 league start, and an 8-0 start overall. “Jeff Green’s been very good in goal, and our first line of Jeff Foley, Jeff Grant and Kyle McCullough have carried us offensively, plus the players on the other lines have chipped in. We’re also getting good defense, too.”
Senior forward Ray Kirby has also played well for UMass, notching 5G-8A-13PTS, to put his in the top for in scoring, along with the aforementioned first line trio. Grant has also contributed heavily on special teams, with three power goals, and two shorthanded goals.
Rolli was asked about the upcoming game vs. Curry. “Watch out! We’re hopping in the frying pan! We’ve seen them, and this could be the best Curry team of them all. Their new players are very skilled, and they’ve returned some great players. This game is one of many that’s important in the league, and it’s the games in February and March you’ve got to win, too.”
Rolli’s counterpart at Curry College, Rob Davies, had some thoughts on the match-up as well. “They’re a good team. This is not the most important game of the year for us, but it’s the biggest one to this point. We’re ready to go. One of our strengths is our depth. We can lose a few bullets, but still be there in a gunfight.”
Davies is very happy with his goaltending. “We’ve got two freshman splitting the duties, and they’re competing, they’re pushing each other to get better. It’s a good situation.”
The two freshmen have rotated games, and in the last four games, have only allowed one goal, a power play tally against Stonehill. Zachary Cardella has started four games, and has a 3-1-0 record with one shutout, while Anthony Lisi has started two games, posting a 2-0-0 record, and stopping everything shot his way.
Davies feels his team can still improve, though. “We’re trying to get better. I’m pleased with the overall record, [5-1-0] but there are a lot of aspects I’m not please with, and we have to work on, such as special teams, our play in the defensive zone, and our forechecking.”