Michael Collins has certainly gotten off to a fast start in his first season at Elmira College.
The freshman led the Soaring Eagles in scoring with five goals and seven assists for 12 points through his first 12 games, and had also registered 18 penalty minutes.
“We thought he’d be good,” said Elmira coach Aaron Saul. “But he’s been adjusting better and gotten more comfortable in his role.”
Collins, a 6-foot-3-inch, 195-pound forward from Victoria, B.C., was held scoreless in his first collegiate outing, as were the rest of his teammates, in a 9-0 loss at powerhouse Oswego in the season opener on Oct. 27. He then went on a four-game scoring streak, beginning with a game-winning overtime goal for his first collegiate point in a 3-2 victory over Neumann, in Elmira’s home opener on Nov. 2. The goal helped him earn ECAC West Rookie of the Week honors.
“There’s been a transition,” said Collins. “It’s a little faster, and the guys are smarter, but we have a large freshman class, so it’s made it easier. We’ve had the same ups and downs.”
He added that playing with a regular linemate has helped in terms of chemistry.
“I’ve played with (fellow freshman) Greg Whittle the whole year, and he’s made it quite easy on me,” said Collins.
Included in Collins’ four-game tear was a three-point effort in a 4-3 win at Geneseo on Nov. 9, where he scored a short-handed goal and also helped set up the game-winning goal. He went on to garner ECAC West Player of the Week accolades.
“He’s done a great job for us, and for sure he’s getting better,” said Saul.
After going without a point in an 11-2 loss at then-No. 10 Utica on Nov. 16, Collins promptly went on a three-game scoring string. He also scored a goal in a 4-1 win over Fredonia on Dec. 8, but then was held off the score sheet as Elmira dropped a pair of games at the Cardinal Classic in Plattsburgh, N.Y., on Dec. 28-29, first to No. 10 Amherst and then to Wesleyan.
The slightly-reeling Soaring Eagles (5-8 overall, 2-4 ECAC West) get back to business on Friday evening with a second shot at No. 2 Oswego, this time at home at the Murray Athletic Center. The visiting Lakers topped ECAC West frontrunner and then-No. 4 Hobart in overtime back on Dec. 8.
“We need to start winning some games,” said Collins. “We’ve had some learning curve troubles, with penalties and mistakes.”
He added that as long as the Soaring Eagles keep learning from their errors, it will enhance their chances down the road after a tough start to the season. Elmira is currently seeking its sixth consecutive NCAA Division III Tournament berth, and fourth in Saul’s tenure.
“We didn’t have the best first half, but if we put together some wins, we might have a shot,” said Collins.
Prior to enrolling at Elmira, Collins skated for the Dauphin Kings of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, where he recorded 18 goals and 43 points in 49 games during the 2011-12 campaign. In three MJHL seasons with three different clubs, he posted 48 goals and 69 assists for a total of 117 points to go with 111 penalty minutes in 149 outings.
“I wanted to go to a school in the States,” he recalled. “There were a lot of D-III teams and a lot of offers after my 19-year-old season.”
He spoke to Elmira staffers just over a year ago, liked the team and the coaches, and was sold on the school after a visit last February. A business administration major specializing in management, he hopes to have a shot at playing professionally before entering the business world.
“To have the opportunity to play pro hockey, there’s no question,” said Collins. “It’s what every little kid dreams of. It would have to be the right fit, but I still love getting on the ice.”
ECAC West Notes (Teams listed in order of league standings)
No. 7 Hobart (11-1-2 overall, 5-0-1 ECAC West) has been off since a 3-2 overtime loss to Oswego on Dec. 8. The Statesmen don’t get back on the ice until Jan. 12 at Curry.
No. 12 Manhattanville (9-4-1, 4-1-1) finished second at the Middlebury Classic on Dec. 30-31, beating Wentworth, 4-1, before suffering a 3-2 loss to Babson. Brian Fleming stopped 51 of 54 shots for the Valiants, and is now 7-4-1 on the season.
No. 8 Utica (9-2-0, 3-2-0) has won four straight after posting a 4-1 win over Nichols on Dec. 8, and gets back to business on Friday against Salve Regina.
Elmira (5-8-0 overall, 2-4-0 ECAC West) will play a home-and-home series with Morrisville on Jan. 12-13 after hosting No. 2 Oswego on Friday.
Neumann (5-4-2, 2-4-0) has been idle since topping Morrisville, 4-1, on Dec. 8. The Knights will meet Massachusetts-Dartmouth on Friday in the first round of the Northfield (VT) Bank Tournament, hosted by No. 1 Norwich.
Nazareth (4-8-1, 0-5-0) last played in a 2-1 loss to Buffalo State on Dec. 8. The Golden Flyers begin the new calendar year against Cortland on Jan. 8, but won’t get back to conference action until Jan. 17 versus Elmira.