T’was just a week before Christmas and all through the rink,
All of the coaches sat in quiet, to ponder, to think.
The skates put away, pads airing out, the sticks on the rack,
What do we really need to be better, when the players come back?
The second half is nearly upon us, league games and points to be had,
I am hoping that Santa doesn’t think my boys have been bad.
So I will make up a list, just a few small items, not a lot you see,
Just some wins, some goals, and no more injuries, I mean none for me.
The season will move quickly, no time to be wasting,
Our chances to fine tune our game, it’s victory we want to be tasting.
So Santa if you are listening, I hope you are, hear me well,
The following list is for the coaches, but, alas Santa, I get to tell.
Babson: For the Beavers, the first half has been a forgettable 3-7-0, not quite up to the standard seen by Jamie Rice-coached teams in the past several seasons. Babson really needs a couple of things that will help the team across the board. So far this season, only nine players have played in every game, so getting healthy and a consistent line-up will certainly help the cause. The Beavers also need one of their three goaltenders to stand out and cut the collective team 4.70 goals-against average down significantly. If that happens, the penalty kill that shows a 68 percent success rate should also improve. Both Zeke Testa and Andrew Peabody have good career numbers, so hopefully the second half brings some consistency between the pipes to Babson.
Castleton: The Spartans are probably thinking, “Who needs a break anyway?” At 10-1-0, and with their only loss coming at the hands of the number one team in the country (Norwich), Alex Todd’s team has been firing on all cylinders so far. Still, Santa needs to find something to put in their stocking, so maybe it should be the ability to play well on the road starting at the end of the month. Eight of the Spartans next 10 games are away affairs, beginning with the Cardinal Classic and a chance that they could see the host school (Plattsburgh) twice in a span of one week. The offense has been potent, special teams outstanding, and Erick Cinotti has asserted himself as the clear number one in goal. Success on the road in January will be telling of how far this team may be able to go in March.
Massachusetts-Boston: At 4-5-2 overall and just 1-5-0 in the conference, the Beacons really need to learn how to come out much stronger in the first period, particularly against league opponents. So far in the conference, they have scored just three goals all season in the first 20 minutes of play, and carry a minus-seven goal differential into the break. Coach Belisle’s team finished the first half with two consecutive wins over the University of New England and Wentworth, and now look to carry some belated momentum into their own Codfish Bowl Tournament to start the second half. Success in their tournament may help build confidence for a January 14 showdown with Norwich.
New England College: After splitting a two-game set with Cortland by duplicate 4-3 scores, the Pilgrims finished the first half at 6-4-0 overall and 4-2-0 in the conference. Other than Norwich and Castleton, NEC is the only team in the ECAC East with a winning conference record. In the second half, Coach Carroll might like to see some weekends with points in both games, as the December schedule showed a weekly cadence of a win and a loss for the Pilgrims. Additionally, at 4-2-0 on the road, NEC has played better away from the friendly confines in Henniker, N.H., which is something that will need to change, since the second half opens with six straight at home.
University of New England: The Nor’easters plain and simple need offense. At 2-6-2 overall and 1-5-0 in the conference, UNE has just 33 goals in 10 games played, and moreover has been outshot by their opponents in the third period by a whopping -32 deficit in shots and minus-eight in goal differential. While there are other areas to tighten up, more offensive production would surely take the pressure off a bit on the goaltending and penalty kill, as well build some confidence around an inexperienced group of forwards that includes six freshmen and sophomores among their top 10 scorers.
Norwich: Now let’s not be greedy Coach McShane. The Cadets are unbeaten thus far this season, and have played well in all three zones. Just ask the coach and he’ll tell you it can always be better, but improvement here is a relative term. Just staying healthy is going to be an important thing for Norwich in the second half, and while goaltender Parker Carroll’s won/loss record is outstanding, a save percentage over .900 would surely make sure their team goals against average of 2.00 doesn’t go up in January. The Norwich Classic precedes a trip to play Babson at Frozen Fenway, where hockey fans can see what the best in D-III has to offer in an outdoor game.
St. Anselm: After notching win number 300 as a coach, Ed Seney may want to ask Santa to just stay under the radar screen with some big match-ups coming up in January. The Hawks can score goals with a very balanced attack, play strong special teams, and get good goaltending that has them in every game. A 5-2 loss to Norwich is the only losing result with greater than a two-goal differential. The second half finds St. A’s with 10 of its first 12 games at home, so getting on a roll in their own rink would be a nice stocking stuffer for Coach Seney this Christmas.
St. Michael’s: Ahh, the Purple Knight would surely trade in his kingdom for some goals, as the offense has produced just 18 goals in eight games so far. Freshman A.J. Pieprzak has nearly a third of the total goals with his team-leading five goals, so Coach Davidson just might want to see some more balance from his forwards. Additionally, some more five-on-five goals would be a welcome happening, as nearly 50 percent of the team’s offensive output has been produced with the man advantage. Their own tournament at the end of December brings Becker and Salve Regina to Winooski, so hopefully, 2012 can get off to a promising start.
Skidmore: Other than a 3-0 shutout loss to Norwich, Skidmore has played very tight games all season. Like NEC, they too have found it difficult to put back-to-back wins together on each of the weekends. One key contributor to the close losses they have experienced may be found in their penalty kill effectiveness, where opponents are scoring at a 28.9 percent success rate. Also, the Thoroughbreds need to have better results when playing away, as they open with four consecutive road contests, including two games with Potsdam following the break.
Southern Maine: At 3-3-0 overall and 3-3-0 in the league, the Huskies seemed to be getting it right leading into the semester break. A 3-1 win over Bowdoin has them on a three-game winning streak, where they have outscored their opponents by a 13-4 margin. Goaltender Braely Torris has found his groove, but the offense needs to get more consistent in the second half, where the Huskies have a negative goal differential overall. More consistent road play and better penalty killing will also help Jeff Beaney’s squad, which opens the second half at the Middlebury Classic, where he hopes to see his team meet his brother’s Middlebury squad to celebrate the New Year.
Amherst: A sweep of top rivals Williams and Middlebury to close out the semester has the Lord Jeffs atop the NESCAC standings at 5-0-0. While no one on the roster is lighting it up offensively, the scoring has been balanced and the defense has been stifling. Coach Arena would surely like to see his team stay healthy, including a return to the line-up by spark plug Eddie Effinger. Senior Jonathan LaRose has been as advertised in goal, so look for Santa to bring a better power play in the second half to help the offense overall.
Bowdoin: A weekend sweep of Tufts and Connecticut College, where they outscored the opponents 12-1, was a strong finish to an otherwise average first half. While the offense has been solid, it has been a bit of a feast or famine scenario for Bowdoin this season, where goals come in bunches or not at all. More production from Daniel Weiniger and Harry Matheson would be great support for senior Richard Nerland, who has been outstanding in five games, posting a 3-1-0 record.
Colby: Coach Stan Moore is probably still learning what he has with his Mules, but one thing is for sure, the veteran coach can’t be happy with a power play unit that has gone 1-for-29 in the first half of the season. Senior defenseman Patrick Bursee has the lone man-up marker this season, so look for more from the likes of Michael Doherty and Spike Smigelski in the second half. A nonconference game with Salem State starts the new semester, followed by Hamilton and Amherst at home, where Colby will need to play better in the second half, having posted just a 1-3-0 record in Waterville this season.
Connecticut College: The good news is nine different players have scored for the Camels. The bad news is no one has more than three goals, and the team averages just over two goals per game. Add some less-than-stellar penalty killing and inconsistent goaltending and you have the imbalance that finds the Camels a couple of games below .500 on the season. The biggest present Coach Ward can find under the tree would be a home win. The Camels are 0-4 on home ice this year, so following a trip to Oswego for the Pathfinder Classic, six straight at home could determine the success of Connecticut College’s season early in the second half.
Hamilton: New coach Rob Haberbusch has been seeing improved play from the Continentals as the first half progresses, including a solid 3-0 shutout at home over Middlebury. The next day they lost to Williams 5-1, so consistency will be a welcome gift from Santa for Hamilton. Offensively, Michael DiMare and Anthony Scarpino have 10 of the team’s 19 goals and four of the six power-play goals, so more goals from more contributors would be a welcome addition to support the solid goaltending of sophomore Joe Quattrocchi.
Middlebury: Giving up less than two goals a game is a strong start for the defense and goalie John Yanchek, but not averaging three goals a game is a surprise for the line-up the Panthers roll out every night. They have been shutout twice this season, and scored three or less in seven of eight games played. Special teams have been solid, so scoring five-on-five goals will need to be a more frequent event in the second half for Bill Beaney’s squad.
Trinity: Goals from a source other than a player with the last name Menard will be a nice present for first year coach Matt Greason. The twins have exactly 50 percent of the total production and 50 percent of the power-play production. Unfortunately, Jeff Menard’s power-play goal is one of just two overall for the Bantams, who are just 2-for-32 in the first half of the season. A bit of health for proven man advantage scorers like Mike DeMayo and Paul Jaskot would surely help the Bantams in the second half.
Tufts: Yes, Scott Barchard is back and healthy, so Santa, please don’t spill milk in the locker room for him or any other Jumbo to slip on. But most of all Santa, can you help Coach Murphy’s squad out with some improved special teams play? The penalty kill is only at 70 percent, despite having one of the conference’s best in goal, and the power play has clicked at only a 7 percent success rate. Sophomores Kyle Gallegos and Garrett Sider lead Tufts with four goals each, and that includes one power-play goal apiece. Kicking it off with more offense at the Codfish Bowl in Boston after the New Year would be a good start for the second half.
Wesleyan: Coach Potter’s team has had a good start, and that is across all facets of the game. Goaltending has been strong between Glenn Stowell and Matt Hadgen. and the offense has delivered behind sophomore Nik Tasiopoulos and his eight goals. Even special teams, which have struggled in recent years, have been solid, so what could Coach Potter ask for from Santa? Maybe, just maybe, a bit more discipline and fewer penalties from the team sitting second in the conference at just over 18 minutes per game in the penalty box. Just a consideration when three of your upcoming opponents excel on the man advantage.
Williams: The Ephs are another team that has already received balanced offense, strong defense, and goaltending and credible special teams. So what could Bill Kangas want in his stocking from Santa? The Ephs may want to find the “hot tub time machine” to keep everything going from the first half into the second half. For sure they don’t want any injuries to their core group, so rule out the hot tub for that use, but overall Williams has key performers and leaders in all three areas of the game, so while they sit in second place today, expect the Ephs to contend for their first NESCAC crown. Four of their first six games after the break are with nonconference opponents, so Williams will need to keep up the intensity before facing the iron of the NESCAC schedule.
Well, that’s it:
The wish lists have been hung on the web with care,
In the hopes that some readers soon will be there.
So as my laptop keys tap out with delight,
I wish to all a Happy Holiday, and for now a good night!
Santa’s coming — drop the puck