Back in the Groove?
Hobart stumbled through the last two weeks of last month, starting on Nov. 14 when they gave up four one goal leads against Neumann. The bottom fell out the next weekend when Hobart dropped a pair of games against Elmira and the slide continued a week later out of conference with a loss at Cortland.
“You want to get so much done that sometimes you focus on what you want to get done and not how you want to get it done,” said Hobart head coach Mark Taylor. “That’s where we were for a couple of weeks. Then we were focusing on what we weren’t getting done and not why we weren’t getting it done. We were looking in all the wrong places.”
With a pair of league wins this past weekend, it appears that Hobart has stopped the slide and is starting to move upwards again. The Statesmen started to turn the corner last Friday. After Hobart played a good first period, Utica scored a trio of power-play goals in the second period to take a 4-2 lead into the third period. It seemed like the slide would continue, but Hobart ripped in four goals over a 9:15 span of the final frame to secure a 6-4 victory.
“Utica was a good start,” said Taylor. “They got a couple of goals on the power play. The puck was on the right guy’s stick for them. Nick Broadwater didn’t see many shots, certainly in the first period, and that played into it. He had to regroup and did a great job of collecting himself and coming back out in the third period and shutting the door.”
After giving up four goals on 12 shots in the first two periods, freshman goaltender Nick Broadwater shut Utica out in the last stanza to help Hobart win the game.
Saturday night, Hobart started to play like the Statesmen of previous years, jumping out to an early lead on three power-play goals on the way to beating Manhattanville, 4-2.
“We started to play like the old Hobart hockey team, to get back to our groove a little bit,” said Taylor. “We’re starting to get a little bit of a sync back. We are real happy with the guys on how they have collected themselves and stopped focusing on all the pressures and expectations. We have been trying to take a step every single year. These steps get tougher to take. There is always that weight of ‘we want to be the class that does, not the class that doesn’t do it.’”
At the top of the scoring charts for the Statesmen is freshman Chris Cannizzaro, who has tallied seven goals and added nine assists so far this season.
“He’s got a good stick,” said Taylor. “He’s doing a great job, that’s why you bring them in. Sometimes points are coming hard for other guys and that can challenge them.”
With big road wins under their belts, the Statesmen are now looking to climb back up the hill. Midway through the league schedule, Hobart is in third place with a 3-3-1 record and trails second place Manhattanville by three points.
“We’ve faced some good adversity,” said Taylor. “I hope it will make us a heck of a lot better at the end of the year. We’re starting to come together and play for each other. I’ve never questioned the quality of this group. They have done so much for me for so many years. We all got focusing on the wrong stuff.”
Powered to First
Elmira stumbled out of the gate at the start of the season, splitting a pair of home-and-home series against Oswego and Morrisville. A big reason for the Soaring Eagles struggles during the first three games of the season was a powerless power play. Elmira failed to score on its first 16 man advantages of the year.
Since then, the Soaring Eagles power play has been dominant, spurring the team to eight straight wins. Elmira has scored 21 goals on its last 58 opportunities and is now clicking along at a 28.4 percent success rate overall, and a robust 36.6% in league play.
“[Assistant coach] Dean Jackson has done a terrific job with that,” said Elmira head coach Aaron Saul. “We split up the duties a little bit. He has been doing the power play pretty much since the beginning of the year. Credit to the players too as they are focused when we get a power play opportunity. It has been very good for us and is obviously making a difference in the streak that we are on.”
Elmira is the last undefeated team in conference play and is in a dominant position two points ahead of second place Manhattanville and has a game in hand. The Soaring Eagles passed a big test last Friday against the Valiants to take sole possession of first place when they defeated Manhattanville, 5-4.
After getting out to a 2-0 first period lead, Elmira withstood a firestorm in the second as Manhattanville poured 20 shots on goaltender Casey Tuttle.
“We took a lot of penalties in the second period and they got a lot of shots on net,” said Saul. “They had a 5-on-3 early in the third period. We were able to kill that off and it was a momentum swing for us.”
Rusty Masters led Elmira in scoring against the Valiants with a pair of goals, and also leads the team in goals for the season with 10.
“In my opinion, if he keeps going Rusty could maybe get consideration for All-American at the end of the day,” said Saul. “He has been our most consistent player offensively and defensively. He is doing a great job of leading our extremely young team.”
Another strength so far this season for Elmira has been a quick start to games. The Soaring Eagles have outscored opponents 16-3 in the first period through 11 games.
“We have gotten off to very good starts,” said Saul. “With the last four games being on the road, as a coach you always anticipate the first period. Usually with the long bus rides, it is the other way around, but we have come out firing on all pistons and it has seemed to work for us.”
Despite its success so far, Elmira isn’t letting up heading into the holiday break. The Soaring Eagles continue to practice this week despite not having another game until New Year’s weekend when they will play in Oswego’s Pathfinder Classic tournament.
“We definitely finished this first half of the season strong, being undefeated in our league,” said Saul. “In the ECAC West, that is a big feat. We are not going to sit on our laurels. There are definitely some things that we can get better at.”
Game of the Week
Hobart faces one last challenge before the holidays, and it will be a doozey of a test whether the Statesmen are back in sync or not. On Saturday, Hobart travels up Route 14 to take on top ranked Oswego.
The Lakers are on a 10 game winning streak, tied for the longest in Division III. On the other hand, Hobart seems to have found its groove recently and is looking to end the first half of the season on a roll.
“I like the resolve that we have had,” said Taylor. “We took a couple slips down the ladder and I wasn’t so sure if we had hit bottom or just fell backwards. But we are pulling ourselves back up. We have a great test against Oswego, the best team in the country right now. We’re going to try our best to try and get it done.”
I would like to extend my best wishes to all USCHO readers during this holiday season. I’ll be taking a break to enjoy the merriment, but fear not: the regular ECAC West column will return on Jan. 7 as teams sprint toward the playoffs in the second half of the season.