One may look at the overall record at 7-7-6 and think that is about the true definition of a .500 hockey team.
But a look a little deeper into the Skidmore schedule and results shows that 40 percent of their games played have gone to overtime. In those overtime games, the Thoroughbreds are 1-1-6.
A bounce here or a deflection there could be the difference in a few more wins and points for Skidmore and that is a clear focus for their coach Neil Sinclair.
“I really like our compete level,” stated Sinclair. “Last weekend was a really good weekend for us and getting one in overtime was a big lift and big win over a very good New England College team. It was also alumni weekend for our program and one past player referenced that it seems like all season we have been pushing the rock up the mountain. Maybe last weekend’s results will have a positive carryover in our remaining games, but this is a great group of guys and their commitment has been there all season, regardless of the outcome.”
Among the key performers on Sinclair’s team are three seniors who are leading the team by example on and off the ice and currently fill the top three point positions on the scoring table.
Seniors Aaron Beck (13-4-17), Vlad Gavrik (8-9-17) and Brad Schuler (5-12-17) are tied for the team lead in points and according to their coach, have been keys to the team’s overall competitiveness.
Both Gavrik and Schuler had two points apiece in Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win against the Pilgrims and have been offensive leaders coming up with timely goals and points when their team needs it most.
“Our seniors have been great in supplying leadership and focus to the team,” said Sinclair. “Adam has had a great year and has scored some big goals for us this season, along with Vlad and Brad. They have helped our freshmen immensely and now it’s back to the mantra I think you have heard for several years. We want to be the best hockey team we can be, especially now as we come down to the remaining games on the schedule. All of the opponents are good, so it really doesn’t matter where you are in the playoffs – you are going to be playing a good team in our conference. We have had three or four teams nationally-ranked all season which speaks volumes to the quality of play in the ECAC East, so we just need to continue to play hard and bring a disciplined and competitive game for every game we play.”
Another area of satisfaction for Sinclair has been the play of freshman netminder Jack McDonald and the recent consistency of sophomore Ben Freiberg. McDonald has not necessarily reaped the benefits in terms of conference wins with his solid play, but his overall .920 save percentage and 2.68 goals-against-average has helped his team be in every game this season.
“Jack his seen the lion’s share of the minutes so far this season,” stated Sinclair. “He has been very good and very consistent this season. It was Ben who played and got the win against New England College on Saturday and played very well. It is great to get both guys going for us at this time of the year and the fact they are a freshman and sophomore, respectively, really helps the program moving forward through the remainder of this year and beyond. They are really good teammates and it goes without saying the good goaltending is a key to us being in hockey games.”
With the number of overtime and one-goal games this season, the Thoroughbreds have been battle-tested in close playoff-like games. That fact is not lost on their coach who finds value in the season to date and what is to come in the final month.
“We schedule some tough nonconference games to make sure we are prepared for the challenges of our league,” Sinclair said. “Games with Plattsburgh, Potsdam, Buffalo State and Nichols or Salve Regina all are quality teams that have helped us to be a better hockey team. Friday night, we face Babson and we know it is going to be a challenge based on how consistent they have been this season. [Coach] Jamie [Rice] has been very consistent at Babson for years and Peter [Belisle] has really raised the Beacons program up to a level where they have been nationally-ranked. We have our work cut out for us, for sure, but this group of kids has had a great attitude and has played hard each and every night, so I don’t expect anything different this weekend on the road.”
It only took eight overtime games to get that first favorable bounce and a game-winner in extra time for the Thoroughbreds. One guy in particular hopes that is a sign of good things to come.
“If we have been pushing the rock up the mountain, then maybe Saturday’s goal is a sign of good things to come,” said Sinclair. “We aren’t going to change our approach and if it takes some extra time to get the result, these guys are ready to compete with anyone.”