Happy New Year!
Cant you just see the confetti, the ball, er puck, dropping at the stroke of midnight over and over again in a scene reminiscent of Bill Murray in Groundhog Day? Over and over again in flashbacks, the league coaches have had various amounts of time during the holiday break to think about what the first half brought and what the second half really needs to see change for the clubs to be successful and play their best hockey at the right time of the year.
No Santa list or visit this year kids! Nope, the jolly old elf is burned out dealing with some D-I columnist (who made frequent guest appearances with D-III updates in Connecticut last season) who annually makes him visit the very needy Hockey East coaches every year in hopes that they find a little Christmas magic in their stockings.
No this year is all about resolutions and the New Years wishes the D-III coaches have for their teams in the ECAC East and NESCAC conferences leading to a prosperous January and beyond. So without further ado and in reverse order of the standings, here is what this writer thinks 20 teams are renewing commitments to in the second half as the regular season recommences this weekend across the league.
Skidmore — Breaking their winless streak in the league is probably tops on the list for the Thoroughbreds following Tuesdays loss to travel partner Castleton, but at the core of it all is a need to score more goals from the guys who produced last year and stop more opposing goals where last years team found success. Matt Czerkowicz had four points in a solid effort Tuesday which hopefully bodes well for the second half.
Teddy Gowan getting on track offensively and some solid goaltending is definitely needed and that now looks to be squarely on the shoulders of senior Ted Levine who will step in for sophomore DJ Delbuono, who left the team and was taken off the roster prior to Tuesdays game against Castleton. Interesting times for the Thoroughbreds to start the new year.
Salem State — The Vikings enter the new year having lost the championship game in their holiday tournament to longtime league rival Bowdoin then rebounded nicely in a non-league win over Fitchburg State. Coach Bill ONeill would just assume keep his young guns popping off as Aaron Blades, Chris MacInnis and Justin Fox all have eight goals apiece already and the Vikings will need the firepower in the second half. Keeping the power play cranked up is a resolution Salem State would like to keep.
St. Michaels — What better way to start the new year than with a three game win streak over the holidays including a win in their own tournament. Coach Chris Davidson has the Purple Knights playing pretty well but will need his teams resolve in scoring more goals and more even strength goals as nearly 50% of their production is coming off the power play, led by Erik Caron and Ryan Mero. Transfer Tyler Bilton has been solid in goal and needs to stay committed to backstop his team as the Knights look to move up in the standings.
UMass-Boston — Very quietly the Beacons are starting to make people notice they can play and for the first time in many seasons they come out of the break posting a winning record at 5-4-1. Their current three game unbeaten streak includes a tie that felt like a win against travel partner and league leader Babson by a 1-1 score and two 5-4 victories over Suffolk and Fitchburg State, respectively, to capture the Codfish Bowl Tournament during the holiday break. Coach Peter Belisle is resolving that his kids keep the faith in the second half and looks to Eric Tufman to continue his team leading scoring and Kris Kransky to play big and continue his hot start.
Castleton State College — The Spartans got a big two points on Tuesday night in a high scoring affair that isnt typical of the style that coach Alex Todd has brought to his team. Theyll take the win but the coach is probably looking for a commitment to tighten things up and staying committed to the style that worked so well for them last season. The Spartans could use a few more seven goal outbursts and have some talent upfront — led by Brandon Heck and Steve Culbertson — to do it.
St. Anselm — The only blemish on the Hawks record is a loss to streaking New England College just before the break but for a young team coach Ed Seney has to be happy with how his team has played particularly on defense and in the goal. Resolutions are probably easy here in looking for more offense and a power play that can help lessen the burden on even-strength play. Goalie Jason Zuck continues to impress in his sophomore season and St As will need his consistent play to challenge the league leaders in the second half.
Norwich — Funny to be writing about the Cadets sitting in the four spot at the break with a 4-1-0 record but last year proved the Cadets can turn it on in the second half. After winning the Times-Argus tournament with quality wins over UMass-Dartmouth and ECAC East league leader Babson, the Cadets suffered a tough loss against third ranked Plattsburgh by a 3-2 score in a game decided in the final 76 seconds of regulation. Coach McShane resolved before the season to have a better power-play and at 29%, it wasnt hard to renew that resolution come the new year. Continued production from Rick Cleaver and Nikita Kashirsky is expected but added scoring from the likes of DJ Famiani and Chad Anderson will make this team more formidable for league opponents.
Southern Maine — 10-0-1 from a team that has made it mandatory for second half excellence in recent seasons, coach Jeff Beaney must have pushed some New Years resolutions on the boys early in the season based on the fast start. Goalie Jamie Gilbert has stepped right into David Beckles crease and has been rock solid while Mike Stevens has been a key offensively scoring key goals including three game winners so far this season. The power play is killer and so too is the balance up front. These Huskies have been close each of the past three seasons. Maybe this is the year.
New England College — Only a close 4-3 loss to host and defending national champion Oswego this past weekend mars the Pilgrims season entering league play this weekend with a trip to Maine to face Bowdoin and Colby. The Pilgrims are down right stingy on defense and must have resolved to support the solid goaltending from Ron Baia with tight play in front of him especially a man down where the y have an extraordinary 93% kill rate. The Pilgrims are strong up the middle and have the depth and balance to be dangerous with all of their lines — watch out for Mark Ehl especially on the power play where his six goals lead the team.
Babson — Only the loss at Norwich blemishes the Beavers opening half and the defending conference champs are right back at the top playing with great balance in all phases of the game. Ten players led by Jason Schneider and Brad Baldelli have more than two goals and the defense has been solid in front of goalie Skylar Nipps. Coach Jamie Rice will surely resolve that his team not dwell on last season but focus on the opportunity at hand and continue to play aggressively in the new year.
Hamilton — Following a tough season last year, the Continentals have only won one game in their first eight to star the season. The win was a big one for Coach Phil Grady who recorded his 300th career win while at Hamilton. This years team is still very young and the coach must have made a number of resolutions and wishes for some goals as the team has been offensively challenged early in the season. Sophomore Jerome Wallace leads the team in scoring with six points on four goals and two assists. The power play has not been effective yet so getting into a rhythm when a man up might help some of the Hamilton forwards get on track in the second half that begins at home against EC