It’s that time of year again. The stockings are hung, the presents are almost wrapped, and the lights on the Christmas tree are already defective. (It’s a minor inconvenience.)
But after Johnson and Wales’ 7-1 win over Southern New Hampshire on December 14, and with finals wrapped up, each of the ECAC Northeast and MASCAC teams has headed home to enjoy the holiday break.
Chances are that they’ve already started their Christmas wish list, and so have we at USCHO.com. Let’s bestow a gift upon each team in each league …
Worcester State: To gain consistency while earning a few more wins – and not just the upset brand. Lancers goalie Bryan Kalczynski leads the MASCAC with a .931 saves percentage, and Kalczynski and Plymouth State goalie Jack Astedt enter the holiday leading the conference with a 2.07 goals-against average. Speaking of Plymouth State …
Plymouth State: To maintain its consistency, both team-wise and individually, heading into the New Year. The Panthers enter Christmas break at 8-2 and atop the MASCAC standings at 5-1, and junior forward Kyle Greco is second in MASCAC scoring with 15 points (6-9-15), while Richie Zobak leads all league defensemen in scoring (2-8-10).
Westfield State: To behave better on the ice. What’s that whole saying about “naughty or nice?” The Owls are the MASCAC’s most-penalized team, averaging 25.3 penalty minutes in their first 10 games, but surprisingly are fourth in the league in penalty killing at 82.9 percent (58 for 70). Still, the Owls have given up 44 goals on 414 shots this season.
Massachusetts-Dartmouth: To maintain a strong offensive presence, going into the new year. The Corsairs lead the MASCAC with 44 goals and have gotten a boost from freshman defenseman Stephen Ginand, who is averaging nearly a point a game. However, the Corsairs must improve on penalty killing — they’re last in the league at 72.2 percent (39 for 54).
Framingham State: To earn more wins. Because the Rams are 1-6-2 this season after earning their first win since February, and a program can never have enough of those.
Salem State: To capitalize on six MASCAC games in a stretch of 14 days. Salem State opens 2012 against three nonconference opponents, including a two-game road trip to play at New England College and at Southern Maine, then faces all six of its conference opponents from January 14 to January 28.
Fitchburg State: After opening the season 3-6-1, the Falcons could potentially need some good fortune after the new year. Fitchburg State will play in the four-team Northfield Savings Bank Holiday Tournament January 6-7 at Norwich, and could face the host team, which entered the holidays as the No. 1 team in the nation.
There’s also one big gift, wrapped tightly and tucked away for safe-keeping. At the end of the season, one of the seven MASCAC teams will get a big present: the league’s first automatic bid to the NCAA Division III national championship tournament.
Curry: To continue its consistent pace, and to re-enter the USCHO.com Division III top 15 poll. After losing its season opener at the start of November, Curry entered the holiday break on a seven-game winning streak, and the Colonels average a nation-best 5.75 goals a game.
Salve Regina and Suffolk: More wins. The Seahawks got over the proverbial hump in the first month of the season by matching their 2010-2011 win total of two games, then earned their third win November 27 against nonconference opponent Colby. Since then, the Seahawks are 0-4. Meanwhile, the Rams opened the season with a pair of wins, but struggled to create any kind of momentum from November 10 to December 10, losing eight straight games — including four ECAC Northeast games.
Western New England: Continued success for one of the nation’s top penalty -killing units. At Christmas break, the Golden Bears are second in the nation at 94.3 percent (33 of 35). Also helping the Golden Bears? Goalie Eric Sorenson is tied for third in the nation with a .940 saves percentage.
Becker: A holiday tournament turnaround. The Hawks went into the holiday break on a four-game losing streak, but face Wesleyan and St. Michaels December 30 and 31 in the St. Michael’s Holiday Classic in Colchester, Vt., then play in the four-team Worcester (Mass.) Shootout Classic the following weekend.
Wentworth and Nichols: A continued torrid scoring pace from a pair of freshman. At Nichols, Louie Educate has nine goals and six assists in his first 10 games, averaging a point and a half a game. Wentworth’s Mike Domsodi (8-7-15) is tied for third in the nation in freshman scoring with Educate, Morrisville’s Patrick Stillar (5-10-15) and Milwaukee School of Engineering’s Logan Bauman (1-14-15).
Johnson and Wales: Good fortune in its final four nonconference games, in preparation for the remainder of the ECAC Northeast schedule. The Wildcats are 4-3 against nonconference opponents this season and enter the holiday break in second place in the ECAC Northeast. (Also, here’s an apology from me, from the “right animal family, wrong species category”: I referred to Johnson and Wales as the “Leopards” last week when, in fact, you’re the “Wildcats.”)