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This Week in Men's D-II/III

College Hockey:
SUNYAC Rookie Report

There are a handful of freshmen who have made a quick impact on this season so far. Heading that list are the Geneseo forward duo of Zachary Vit and Rich Manley.

They are certainly hard to miss on the ice. Vit stands at 6-3 and 200 lbs. while Manley is 6-5. Sometimes, these numbers are inflated, leaving some to wonder whether they measure the players with their skates on. However, I can attest, having met Manley in the Brockport press box when he was injured, there was no need to pad his height. I would hate to run into him on the ice when he gains a few inches with his skates on.

They have been playing together on the same line with center Jonathan Redlick. It is no surprise those three players are the top three on their team for points (Danny Scagnelli is tied with Redlick for third with 15 points).

Vit is at the head of the list with nine goals and 12 assists. In fact, his 21 points leads the nation amongst freshmen. Vit has had a few more games than others, as his points per game (1.40) is third best.

Manley is tied for third in the nation amongst all players for game-winning goals at three, one behind the leaders. In total, he has eight goals and eight assists.

Within SUNYAC play, which is all that is considered when selecting the conference’s rookie of the year, Vit is the leading freshmen scorer with 10 points (five goals, five assists). Manley’s statistics aren’t as impressive within the conference because he missed three games with an injury, though he still sits fifth among freshmen scoring.

The line with these freshmen wingers is a key reason why Geneseo is sitting in second place halfway through the season and is a serious contender to grab an NCAA playoff spot.

In my season preview, I said Vit and Manley should make an immediate impact. They have.

I was told at the start of the season to keep an eye on Plattsburgh’s Nick Jensen. Sometimes, a new player can get “lost” in the Plattsburgh system with so much depth and talent. However, the freshman from Sweden has held his own, scoring six goals and six assists for 12 points, fifth best on the team.

His six points (two goals, four assists) in conference play has him tied for third amongst freshmen scoring with Morrisville’s Curtis Renaud, who has the exact same breakdown. Shane Avery (4-3-7) of Buffalo State is second.

Other first year players who have done well so far scoring for their teams are Potsdam’s Brandon Couto (4-7-11), Brockport’s Bobby Conner (3-7-10), and Buffalo State’s Mike Zannella (5-4-9), who gets the pleasure of playing on the line with Nick Petriello.

The top freshman defenseman point getter is Cortland’s Stephen Nardi (2-5-7).

There are two freshmen goaltenders who are making an impact for their teams — Fredonia’s Mark Friesen and Buffalo State’s Kevin Carr.

Carr is a key reason why the Bengals have turned their season around this year and are in contention for a bye, never mind a home playoff spot. Carr has played in all but one game, supplanting senior Alan Fritch. In conference play, he has a .934 save percentage and 2.56 goals against average. He has clearly become the guy Buffalo State will ride into the playoffs.

Fredonia coach Jeff Meredith said at the start of the season, “Last year, our goaltending was hit or miss, inconsistent. That’s one thing we’ve been fortunate about — we’ve always had very good goaltending. We brought in two freshmen that we’re looking to compete.”

Well, the Blue Devils once again have very good goaltending thanks to one of those freshmen, Friesen. He has played in 10 of his team’s 15 games. His numbers are 2.38 GAA and .929 save pct. in SUNYAC play. Unfortunately, Fredonia is tied for the second worst in league play scoring goals, so there will be even more pressure on Friesen to bail his team out.

Game of the Week
Elmira at Geneseo on Saturday is shaping up to be a dandy of a contest.

Give Elmira credit. They are playing the top SUNYAC teams in their nonconference schedule — Oswego twice, Fredonia twice, Plattsburgh, Morrisville, and now Geneseo. Thus, this game has huge ramifications for each team when Pool C bids are allotted for the NCAA tournament.

If Elmira doesn’t grab the Pool B slot and/or Geneseo doesn’t win the SUNYAC automatic qualifier, it is games like this that can ultimately decide who gets a second chance. Elmira has been tested in 2011 with a tie at Plattsburgh and a win against Fredonia. The Ice Knights have been playing a soft schedule heading into this showdown.

However, that may be a benefit for Geneseo. They were banged up at the end of the last semester, and they returned this year healthier with some “tune up” games. I like Geneseo’s talent, style, and goaltending this year, and they have done very well despite their depleted lineup at times. It won’t be easy, but I’m taking Geneseo being at home to win this one.

A runner-up candidate is Williams at Plattsburgh Monday afternoon. Williams made some noise being undefeated before last weekend, but they dropped two. The Cardinals continue their improvement as the season goes on, going 8-0-1 in their last nine games. It’s the second longest current unbeaten streak in the country. This will be a good test for Williams to see if their strong start was for real or a fluke against weak competition.

It will also be an opportunity for Plattsburgh to continue to add to their streak; I think that’s exactly what Plattsburgh will do.

Last Batch of Nonconference Games
This past week, we saw 16 nonconference games. I went 11-3-2 picking them for a season total of 54-19-6 (.722).

This week, there are 11 nonconference games. Then, that’s it, with the exception of four nonconference games sprinkled in amongst the second half of the SUNYAC season.

Tonight, Geneseo should have no trouble at Western New England College. Fredonia will also have no problems sweeping Franklin Pierce this weekend. Ditto for Buffalo State over Johnson and Wales in a weekend pair. Potsdam should get back on the winning track with a win against Southern New Hampshire.

Morrisville has three tough contests coming up. They host Neumann twice and then travel to New England College. I like Morrisville against New England College, even though the Pilgrims are better than their record indicates. Against Neumann, they at least get to play at home. I think the Mustangs can steal one here and get a split against the Knights.


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