Hobart hit the road on December 30, straight up Route 14 to the Pathfinder Bank Oswego Hockey Classic tournament.
The Statesmen opened the tournament against Wisconsin-Stevens Point, giving them a rare opportunity to measure themselves against a respected Western team. Despite being outshot 18-7 in the first period, Stevens Point built a 2-1 lead in the opening period. Hobart rallied with three goals in the second period and then skated to a 6-3 victory.
The first minute of each period saw fireworks as Stevens Point scored a goal in the opening minute of the first and third periods while Hobart did the same to start the second.
“I liked how we persevered and came back to beat Point,” said Hobart coach Mark Taylor.
Senior Matthew Wallace, who leads Hobart in scoring, tallied the eighth short-handed goal of his career with four minutes left in the third period. This ties Wallace for the school record in short-handed goals with Nick DeCroo.
Hamilton dispatched host Oswego in the late semifinal game so Hobart faced the Continentals for the championship. The teams exchanged power-play goals in the second period and then Hamilton poured it on in the third, outshooting Hobart 11-3 in the final stanza. Senior Christopher Bower came through with the game-winning goal at 13:17 of the third period to give the Statesmen the tournament title. Bower’s goal came shortly after Hamilton’s John Ogden dinged a shot off the Statesmen cross bar. Bower was named tournament MVP for his game-winning goal and two assist performance.
“Give credit to Hamilton,” said Taylor. “I thought they showed up playing the best execution of everyone. Our guys did a great job of staying to the plan. We got a break at the end and scored.”
After averaging 11 points through each of his first three seasons, Bower got off to a slow start this year, tallying only a goal and an assist in the first half, but he has come back for the second half with a hot hand and has already contributed a goal and three assists in three games since the holidays.
“So many guys come into their senior year and are thinking of so many things they haven’t been thinking of for three years,” said Taylor. “Those aren’t the things that will get you going. [Bower] and Tommy Capalbo are new linemates and they are coming on at the right time.”
With a 5-2 win at Brockport on Tuesday, Hobart is in the middle of seven straight road games. The Statesmen are spending most of the second half of the season on the road, with only four home games sprinkled amongst the final 16 contests of the season. The only home game this month at The Cooler is January 22 against Morrisville.
“We’ve done a good job of taking care of games that are important to us,” said Taylor. “We know how important these games are now. I was told once ‘don’t worry about rankings, don’t worry about what you can’t control, just win hockey games.’ Just win the hockey game that comes up next.”
Even though eight of those games are outside the ECAC West, Hobart can’t let up, as it is very likely that the nonconference games will decide who advances to the NCAA tournament.
Call of a Lifetime
A week and a half before Christmas, Manhattanville goaltender coach Tom Fenton received the phone call that all hockey players dream about. The NHL was on the other end of the line asking if he could play.
The Phoenix Coyotes were in the middle of an East Coast trip when goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov came down with the flu. Needing a backup goaltender on short notice before playing the New York Rangers, the Phoenix staff contacted Fenton, who played collegiately in net for D-I AIC.
Fenton quickly retrieved his pads from Playland Ice Casino and arrived at Madison Square Garden in time to sign a one-day contract before warm-ups started. While Fenton held down the end of the bench during the game, there were a couple of nervous moments when starter Jason LaBarbara tweaked his groin making some saves.
“I wasn’t even trying to think about that,” Fenton said. “I was just trying to take everything all in. There was one point Barbs came across and made a pretty good save and he was kind of favoring his groin and I immediately started sweating on the bench.”
To remember his brush with the NHL, Phoenix gave Fenton his game-worn jersey, a puck signed by captain Shane Doan, as well as a copy of the official scoresheet and lineup card.
Phoenix lost the game to the Rangers, 4-3, in a shootout after overtime.