Sitting alone at the top of the Northeast-10 is Southern New Hampshire University, but these are not happy times for the Penman, who have lost six in a row, and have UMass Dartmouth to contend with this weekend.
“In the first half of the season, we were pretty good, but not great.” said coach Rene LeClerc, who is stepping down at the end of this season, his eighth. “Lately we haven’t been playing very well. We went into Minnesota and played two pretty good games, but came out on the short side of the stick. Then we ran into the Curry buzzsaw, and they made us look pretty weak.” The latest loss came to Plymouth St., although SNHU did show some life in the third period, scoring two while down 3-0, only to lose the game 3-2.
The losing streak began in Vermont on Dec. 13, when SNHU lost to Castleton St. by a score of 10-2. That preceded the two losses to Minnesota-Crookston, and then the drubbing by Curry, 14-2. The Penmen then lost to Fitchburg State, 5-1, but the game was closer than the score indicated SNHU out-shot their opponent, but took 12 penalties and gave up three power play goals, while only going 1 for 7 on their own man advantage.
“That Fitchburg game could have gone either way,” LeClerc said. “We don’t have that killer instinct. We’re still waiting to find a sniper.”
There have been some bright spots for SNHU, most notably the fact that they are in first place, and also the play of several veterans. “Kyle Bousquet keeps playing solid defense for us, and Dave Carroll’s been really strong. Brandon Hammermeister’s been playing well, but he’s a little snake-bitten in that he’s not scoring with the propensity he has in the past,” LeClerc said.
Hammermeister is currently second on the team in scoring, with totals of 9G-10A-19PTS. in 15 games. Last year he led the team in scoring, putting up 14G-17A-31PTS. in 24 games. Much is expected of the junior, particularly after scoring 20 goals in his freshmen year. Leading the team currently is junior Dominc DiMarzo. The East Boston native has 10G-7A-17PTS in 15 games played, and could eclipse his totals of last year (16G-9A-25PTS in 27 games played.)
Sitting in second place in the Northeast-10 is Stonehill College, and coach Scott Harlow was getting his team ready to play again after nearly a six-week break. “To be honest, it’s been kind of a frustrating season. Obviously, being three and eight and having five one-goal losses, but I knew coming into the year it could be frustrating as we’re playing a lot of freshman and sophomores.” Two of those closes losses also came in overtime.
Harlow offered more thoughts: “We have a lot of new kids, and they sometimes tend to make bad mistakes at the worst possible times. We’re also not getting the goaltending we did last year from Josh Green, but Matty Gorman’s played well.” Last year as a junior, Green had a 10-4 record, with a 2.98 GAA. This year, he’s 1-2, with a 5.81 GAA, while Gorman, also a senior is 2-6 with a 3.73 GAA.
One player who is performing exactly as Harlow expected him to is sophomore forward Brendan O’Brien, who despite missing four games earlier in the season with a separated shoulder, still leads the team with 3G-12A-15PTS. in only seven games. His coach paid him a very nice compliment, “Brendan’s a division one player playing division three hockey. He’s also gets shadowed every game, with one, sometimes two players following him.”
Another player Harlow is very happy with is Billy Ninteau, a sophomore defenseman. “He’s probably been our ‘MVP.’ He’s logging twenty five to thirty minutes a game. He and Matt Curran are great players, and this year they’re pumping some in the net, and that’s been a huge help.” Ninteau is the biggest defenseman on the squad, at 6’3″, and 217lbs., and he has four goals this season. Curran is averaging nearly a goal a game, tallying ten times in eleven games.”
Harlow can’t get too down over the fact that his squad is 3-8 overall. “The first half has been frustrating, but look at us from last year, this is exactly what we did, then we won nine in a row.” That’s exactly what happened in 2005-06, as Stonehill got off to a sluggish 3-7 start, only to end up 14-10 overall.
The coach, now in his seventh year, does see some positives to look ahead to. “We need contributions from the third and fourth lines. If we win one more, we should get home ice in the playoffs, if we can squeeze two or three, that may get us a bye. The attitudes have been great this week in practice. The kids are having fun, and they’re glad to be back.”
The Franklin Pierce Ravens started the season quite well, going 3-1-1, but then dropped five out of their next six, a fact not lost on coach Jay McCormack. “We started strong, but wins and loss wise, since then has been sparse. All but three of our losses have been by one goal. We need to learn to put teams away.”
The Ravens have shown a knack for staying in games, with three of their losses even going into overtime. McCormack is pleased by his team’s attitude. “We have a solid work ethic, from the beginning right to the end. They don’t give up, and we have to continue doing that. We’ve been in the money right to the end. Our ‘M.O’ has been hard work and skating well.”
McCormack is very happy with the play of his top line, all three of who lead the team in scoring. Seniors Brian DelSalvio and Chuck Matthews are 2-3 in team scoring, behind junior Joe Fields. This trio also has accounted for almost half of their team’s power play goals, putting in 8 out of 20.
Junior Spencer Utman has seen the bulk of the time between the pipes, and McCormack likes what he sees. “He’s logging a ton of minutes, and he’s giving us a lot of confidence knowing he’s back there and will make the saves for us.” The Brockville, Ontario native has played in 731 minutes, just over 85% of the team’s total ice time so far.
McCormack also seems pleased by some of his second year players. “We’ve got a good group of sophomores with Coursen Schneider, Matt Whitney, and Jeff Kasper. Ed Kus is also playing well on defense, and we’re lucky to have Mike Anderson, a senior, providing leadership for the younger guys.”
Franklin Pierce has an upcoming stretch of three games in eight days, starting with a home game versus Nichols College on Jan. 20, followed by a road game against Worcester St. on Jan. 25, and then a home game two days later against Assumption College.
While on the subject of Assumption College, head coach Kevin Zifcak didn’t have to think for long when asked what his team needs to do for the balance of the season, “We have to start scoring some goals. We have a little over two per game, and we’re struggling in that department.” In seven of the team’s thirteen losses, they have scored one goal or less, only underscoring the need to put pucks in the net.
Currently mired in last place in the Northeast-10, the Greyhounds recently earned their first league win with a 4-3 victory over Framingham State on Jan. 18, a game in which junior winger Matt Paget tallied four times. Zifcak is able to find positive aspects of his team, though. “We’re playing well defensively, getting some good goaltending. Jamie DiGiulio has started the last few games and played well, and if you take out the Colby game, his statistics are good. We’ve played well in front of the goalies, we’ve just got to score goals.” DiGiulio stopped 40 shots in the recent win over Framingham State.
Another bright spot for Assumption is the play of Atte Uola, a freshman from Turku, Finland via the Holderness School. In fourteen games this season, Uola has 3G-4A-7PTS., and was named to the All-Tournament team at the St. Michael’s tournament.
Sophomore center Luke McDonough is having a solid year for Assumption. With 6G-6A-12PTS. in 13 games, the native of Norfolk, MA, has already equaled his numbers from last year, when he put up 4G-8A-12PTS in 25 games.
Zifcak realizes that his team needs to start scoring those goals, and fast. “All of the remaining games are important. We’ve got some conference games coming up, we just need to put the puck in the net.”
Around the league …
Stonehill sophomore Brendan O’Brien is trying to replicate his stats from last year. The Northeast-10 Freshman of the Year in 2005-06, he had 10G-32A-42PTS. in 24 games. So far this year in seven games, he has 3G-12A-15PTS. … Last year in New Hampshire, Franklin Pierce saw Brian DelSalvio and Joe Fields finish 1-2 in scoring. This year the duo is 1-2 again, but in reverse order, with the junior, Fields, leading the way with totals of 6G-13A-19PTS., and the senior, Del Savio, close behind with 12G-7A-19PTS. Both players have played in all fourteen games. … DelSalvio needs just two more goals to break the school record of 13, set by Matt Clemente in the 2002-03 season. Fields needs just two more assists to break the school record for helpers set by Mark Gibbons two years ago. … Bruins and Rangers fans of the seventies and eighties would appreciate the name of a freshman defenseman at Assumption. Maybe he doesn’t spell it the same way, but just hearing Jon Retelle would evoke memories of the classy center and Hall of Famer.