Whether looking at accomplishment or futility involving an athlete or a team, it’s become an all too common practice to compare the longevity since that event’s occurrence to a public figure or cultural reference.
The Cleveland Indians haven’t won a World Series since a movie ticket cost sixty cents. Mark Recchi scored his first NHL goal when Ronald Reagan was in the the White House.
You get the point, but there’s no such time frame reference needed when talking about the Massachusetts-Dartmouth Corsairs. Straight up, the Corsairs haven’t had a losing season a in while. A long while.
In fact, last season’s final mark of 11-15-1 represented the first time UMD posted a losing record since the 1976-77 season (for those keeping track, Gerald Ford was president). It marked the first ever losing season in head coach John Rolli’s 26 years at Mass.-Dartmouth.
“At the end of last season, we addressed the team with the need to make a recommitment to working out and getting better,” he said. “It’s not that we were a bad team; we just couldn’t find a win some games. One or two of those together often becomes three or four, and it becomes pretty frustrating.”
That frustration has been swept aside in the early going, culminating with a 2-1 win over first place and defending conference champions Salem State last Saturday. The game not only marked the first loss of the year for the Vikings, but pushed the Corsairs’ record to 4-1-1 and nudged them a point ahead of Salem for the top spot in the MASCAC.
Timely scoring (two first period goals, one eight seconds in and another on a five minute power play) and solid special teams and goalkeeping have helped Mass.-Dartmouth claim the top spot in the early going.
The strong defensive play (nine goals in six game) comes riding a goalie who’s won as many weekly conference honors this year as he had games entering the season (two), and a skating core that’s already had its depth put to the test.
Senior Collin Tracy had the misfortune of being stuck behind two outstanding goalies in Jeff Green and Jon Dryjowicz-Burek, the latter of whom graduated last year and now serves as an assistant coach.
However, the idle time (nine games in three years) seems to matter little to Tracy, who has posted a sparkling 1.48 GAA and .950 save percentage while starting every game and earning back-to-back MASCAC Goalie of the Week Honors.
“He’s certainly making the most of his opportunity,” Rolli said of Tracy. “He’s a better man that I would have been. He choose the school for a lot of reasons. He’s been very popular on the team and a good student. He clearly should have been given more of an opportunity in his first three seasons, [but] we’re thrilled with how he’s playing this season.”
As for in front of Tracy, the Corsairs’ depth has already been put to the test. Injuries to top defensemen Cullen Lundholm and Mickey Dudley, along with forwards Todd Bartelson and Rob Dudley, have forced Mass.-Dartmouth to pull the reserve chute early in the season.
“We’ve been hit hard with injuries,” Rolli said. “[But] we’ve shown surprising depth,” he said, adding that the nine defensemen have played in at least two games. Of the four players currently on the shelf, Rolli expects only a slight chance that one of them will be back by the end of the semester.
However, balanced scoring (17 goals by 11 different players), a strong penalty kill unit that has denied opponents on 28-of-30 power plays thus far, couplied with a strong work ethic, should help the Corsairs prevail through the rash of injuries.
“The team understands that it’s going to be hard hat, lunch pail style of play,” Rolli said, pointing to three games against teams that Mass.-Dartmouth was picked to finish below. (Salem State Saturday, a 1-1 tie with Plymouth State on Nov. 20 and a 3-1 win over Westfield State Nov. 18). “We play a grind-it-out style; as long as we continue to play 60 minutes of that mindset, we’ll be OK.”
Circle Thursday night’s Mass,-Dartmouth-Worcester State matchup as a game with unexpected potential in the early going. Should the Lancers, who are off to a 1-0-1 start in conference play (2-1-3 overall) manage to knock of the Corsairs, they’d tie them in the standings. Where that is exactly remains to be seen, but if 0-5 Framingham State can upset Salem State, then Worcester State will open the weekend with a share of first place.
ECAC Northeast Action…or lack thereof
Not much going on over in the ECAC Northeast, with a grand total of zero games being played this week prior to Wednesday night’s matchups, which are just about to get underway as this is being typed. Should be a couple of good ones, as Nichols visits Wentworth and Western New England travels to Becker. For more on WNEC’s early season success, check out <a href="http://www.uscho.com/2010/11/25/players-buying-in-brings-the-change-western-new-england-needed/"this feature published earlier. Also be sure to check out colleague Chris Lerch’s reflection on his time covering Division III hockey. In the short time I’ve covered the game, I’ve found the heart and passion for the game to be just as equal to the big time schools which I saw while in college at Northeastern. The fans too, have been amazing and passionate. It’s highly unlikely that a future NHL player will take the ice at Westfield State’s Amelia Park Rink, but don’t tell that to the capacity crowd in the Owls home opener, or the rowdy student crowd at Western New England that moved back and forth depending on where the opponent’s goalie was situated, and erupted in cheers when the Golden Bears walked off in overtime. While I’m still learning a lot about the game, the dedication of both the fans and players has struck me.
Player of the Week:Rory Hansen, Western New England College
Hansen had a career high five points with his first collegiate hat trick and two assist against No. 11 Manhattanville.
Goalie of the Week: Travis Owens,Curry College
Owens made 24 saves in a 3-2 victory over Tufts University and 34 saves in a 6-1 win over Trinity. Owens has played in the last three Colonels games and remains undefeated in net with a 2-0-1 record.
Rookie of the Week: Chris Azzano, Wentworth
Azzano made 34 saves for the Leopards with 27 of those saves coming over the final two periods of regulation and overtime. Azzano stopped all three shots he faced in the extra session, including two while the Leopards were killing off a five-minute penalty.
Matt Sayer, Nichols College: Sayer scored two third period goals to help lift the Bison to a 5-2 win at Babson.
Jacob Rinn, Nichols College: Rinn made 39 saves in Nichols’ 5-2 win over Babson.
Chris Connors, Western New England College: Connors recorded a goal and three assists against No. 11 Manhattanville.
Player of the Week: Nick Marquis, Mass.-Dartmouth
Netted the game-winner for the Corsairs in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Salem State.
Goalie of the Week: Colin Tracy, Mass.-Dartmouth
Posted a 2.02 GAA and .933 save percentage in a 1-1 week for the Corsairs, stopping 28 of 29 shots against the Vikings and making 28 saves in a 3-1 loss at Babson.
Daniel Miressi, Framingham State: Netted a goal and an assist for the Rams in a 4-2 loss at Mass.-Boston
Terrance Sullivan, Framingham State: Made 50 saves in a 4-3 setback at Mass.-Boston
Dylan Scanlon, Westfield State: Netted the lone goal in the Owls’ 3-1 loss at No. 8 Williams
Brian Kalczynski, Worcester State: Made 21 saves in the the Lancers’ 3-3 tie with Plymouth State.
Chris Wallin, Worcester State: Netted tying goal for Lancers in 3-3 draw with Plymouth State.