With a very youthful team, Neumann has been struggling through the first quarter of the season. The Knights are a respectable 2-2-2, despite having played a very difficult schedule to date. But Neumann is 0-2-2 in its last four games and the two losses were by large margins.
“It’s all growing pains, consistency and all those types of things,” said Neumann head coach Dominic Dawes.
This past weekend is a great example of those growing pains. On Friday, Neumann got out to a quick start at Elmira when freshman Aaron Keaney scored. But the Knights got into penalty trouble soon thereafter with some undisciplined play and paid the price as Elmira scored three goals before the end of the first stanza.
“We’ve been struggling with discipline and taking a lot of penalties,” said Dawes. “That is what killed us. We took four penalties in that game when we were on the power play already, to negate our power play. Discipline has been a big factor.”
Lack of discipline and consistency during key moments of the game have been recurring problems for Neumann since the first game of the season.
“Our biggest problem this whole year has been consistency,” said Dawes. “The first weekend with Geneseo, we had some good periods and some bad periods. The tie with Utica, we didn’t really show up until the third period. The next weekend at Utica, we got into huge penalty trouble and then the same thing at Elmira. For us, it is consistency, discipline and finding where we are at with a young group.”
For a maturing team like Neumann, special teams can be one of the more difficult aspects of college hockey to master. The power play is clicking along pretty well for the Knights, but they haven’t gotten the knack of penalty killing yet. Elmira scored four extra-attacker goals last Friday to seal a 6-2 victory and the Neumann penalty killing is a paltry 61% overall.
“We’ve been working on it and just need to get better with it,” said Dawes. “It is obviously something that we will continue to work on. In the Hobart game, we were a lot better than we had been with it. We took strides in the right direction and have to build off of that.”
After suffering the beating at the Thunderdomes, Neumann moved north on Route 14 to Hobart Saturday night. The coaching staff shook things up, starting almost all of the freshmen. It was a closely matched game, with neither team building more than a single goal lead. Neumann played much better and scored an extra-attacker goal with 23 seconds remaining in the third period to scratch out a 5-5 tie.
“The Hobart game was a big step for this group,” said Dawes. “If you look at the lineup, we made quite a few changes. The younger guys stepped up and played very well. Three whole lines were all freshmen lines and they stepped up big time working hard all over the ice. It was probably our best team effort.”
Now that the Knights are six games into this year’s campaign, both the players and the coaches are starting to figure out how the puzzle pieces fit together and what it will take to compete.
“We are finding who is going to fit,” said Dawes. “With the young guys, the only way they are going to learn is to get out there in some of these games against the nationally ranked teams. That is how they are going to get better and how we are going to get better. We’re starting to find guys fitting into different roles. It has been an interesting process. New guys have stepped forward.”
Lebanon Valley, while still winless so far this season, is definitely making strides. Numerous coaches have mentioned in passing how their overall play has improved and the high level of effort that the players are giving on the ice.
The Flying Dutchmen put a scare into Elmira this past Saturday. The Soaring Eagles got out to an early two goal lead with a pair of power-play tallies in the first period before Lebanon Valley came storming back in the second frame.
Junior Brad Surdam scored three minutes into the second period and sophomore Josh Goellner tied the game 2-2 just four minutes later. Being tied midway through the contest gave the Flying Dutchmen a jump, but Elmira scored a late second period goal and added a third period power-play tally to seal the 4-2 victory.
As the 20 freshmen and sophomores on the Lebanon Valley roster continue to gain experience, that elusive first win of the season should come sooner rather than later.
Game of the Week
Neumann continues its difficult league schedule this week, but unlike the last four games the Knights will finally be back home in the friendly confines of the Ice Works. On Friday, the Knights will try to get revenge for the 7-3 drubbing Utica put on them two weeks ago.
Saturday, Manhattanville comes to Astor, Penn.. Neumann has a three game home winning streak against the Valiants going back two seasons. But Manhattanville is undefeated so far this year and will be looking to get a jump on Neumann during their first meeting this year.
“It is by no means any easier but it will be nice to get home,” said Dawes. “After this weekend, these guys will have seen some of the best teams in the country and will know what it is like to play at the highest level. That will be something good for us to build on. We’ll know where we are going to stack up and what we need to learn.”