Making an adjustment to college hockey can be difficult for some players. Some, like Plymouth State goalie Jack Astedt, need a year or so to adjust to the new surroundings and tendencies of the game.
However, a large number of freshman have already made an impact thus far this season, including a pair of goalies on teams with aspirations of capturing the ECAC Northeast title.
Wentworth’s Chris Azzano seized the starting job when sophomore Mike Jarboe went down with a torn groin in November. The freshman helped the Leopards end the first half on a hot streak, as they reeled off a five-game unbeaten streak to end the first semester. While Wentworth has evened off a bit since, they’re still in the mix of things in the ECAC Northeast, in part due to Azzano, whose 2.43 goals-against-average and .915 save percentage in conference play rank third and fourth, respectively.
Curry’s Travis Owens is right with Azzano, as he’s forced himself into a rotation with sophomore Robert Dawson. Owens has been getting the nod lately though, and it’s paid off, as the freshman out of Burbank, Calif., ranks second in GAA (2.39) and third in save percentage (.921) in conference play.
Glancing beyond the pipes, there are several other teams with postseason hopes relying on first year players. Nichols’ Robbie Sorrenti has posted a 2-9 line in six conference games, while Wentworth’s Cory Lillie (5-5) has averaged almost two points per conference game as well. Becker’s Korby Anderson doesn’t have the conference numbers (2-2) to match Sorrenti or Lillie, but has a team-leading 10 goals to go along with eight assists on the season overall. Suffolk may be struggling on the season, but Jon Stauffer (5-5) is currently the top-scoring defensemen in conference play,
Over in the MASCAC, Kyle Phelan has five points in eight conference games for second place Salem State. While Worcester State has cooled a bit since it’s historic run to close the first half, much of the Lancers success down the stretch will be dependent on the 10 freshman currently on the team. Derek Sanborn is second on the team with six goals overall, and goalie Brian Kalcynski came in from Erie Community College to grab the starting job for Worcester, and his .926 save percentage ranks fourth in MASCAC play.
While aspiring playoff teams have received a boost from this year’s newcomers, a pair of teams looking to the future have reason to be optimistic based on the contributions from this year’s freshman class.
Framingham State’s Daniel Miressi leads all MASCAC scorers with 11 goals, and his hat trick against Salem State last Saturday almost helped the Rams pull off the upset. With Framingham State losing much of their scoring from last season, Miressi, along with Robert Driscoll (1-4, Eric Ward (3-2), and Peter Baldwin (1-3) have helped replace that as a part of a 12-member freshman class.
Western New England brought in a large freshman class as well, and while the Golden Bears might still be a year or two away from fully clicking, they’ve got some talented pieces among their 15 rookies. Chris Connors (1-6), Brian Prost (4-2), and John Kelly (1-5) are each averaging a point or better per game for WNEC in conference play.
A Repeat Process
It’s only the second year of competition in the MASCAC conference, but already the startup conference has proven to provide an entertaining race.
Last season saw the top four teams finish within five points of each other, and its even closer this year, with the top five teams separated by just four points, and the top four squad by just two. However, parity would be a misnomer to describe the conference.
True, the MASCAC isn’t up there with the elite conferences of the hockey world, but Fitchburg State, the team currently in fourth place, owns an overall winning percentage of .719, while none of the top four teams dip below .650. With one more year to go until an autobid in the NCAA tournament, it’s almost certain that the conference champion’s season will end in the league title game. Give it a year though, and one of these teams will have a chance to showcase the conference on a national stage.
Player of the Week: George Isham, Curry. Isham scored two goals in a 4-3 victory over ECAC Northeast opponent Wentworth. His second goal of the night was the game-winner with just 4:15 minutes left to play in regulation.
Goalie of the Week: Jacob Rinn, Nichols. Rinn backstopped Nichols to two conference wins with 57 saves and a .919 save percentage. The junior made 24 saves in an 8-4 win at Johnson and Wales, then followed with 33 saves while allowing one goal at home in a 4-1 win over Suffolk.
Rookie of the Week: Brian Prost, Western New England. Prost scored two goals and an assist in a 6-5 victory at Suffolk and contributed an assist in an 8-2 loss against league leader Johnson and Wales.