Well, if this is the way the season is going to go, we are in for a lot of exciting hockey and some unpredictable finishes based on the opening weekend. No question the intensity is already high for all of the teams, so get ready for lots of action and some wild finishes!
If you can picture the ticker scrolling across the bottom of your TV on ESPN during college football, then you can surely imagine the sentiments of the University of New England Nor’easters, who appropriately created a storm of their own in upsetting nationally-ranked Castleton on Saturday night by a score of 3-2 in overtime. This game had it all in a seesaw affair that had the hosts take one-goal leads on two occasions, only to have the Spartans strike back to tie the game up in the third period. The last equalizer from Ryan Frost came with the extra attacker on the ice and just over a minute remaining in regulation.
After four and a half minutes of play in overtime where both teams had chances, UNE’s Sam Vikich put home the game-winner with assists going to Tyler Fleurent and Nick Michaud and the Nor’easters registered the biggest win in their young program’s career.
What made this outcome even more impressive was that just 24 hours earlier, UNE was shellacked by Skidmore, 9-4, on opening night. It was 5-0 after the first period, when Ian Edwards was replaced in goal by Craig Ryan, 9-2 after two periods when Keith MacDonald replaced Ryan for the 9-4 final score. Fast forward to Saturday night and Edwards again starting in goal for UNE came up big, stopping 38 of 40 shots from Castleton and earning his first win of the season. Moral of the story for all teams — there are no nights off in this league!
Quick, without checking the standings, who is atop the conference after the opening weekend? In what some may consider a surprise, it is not Norwich or Castleton. No Ed Seney’s St. Anselm Hawks are in first place after a 2-0-0 weekend.
Originally scheduled as home games, the opening weekend venues were changed to be played at Babson and Massachusetts-Boston, so last-minute scheduling saw the Hawks opening on the road against two strong competitors rather than the friendly confines of their home arena. Friday night, the Hawks rode the superb goaltending of Robert Kang, who stopped 45 of 46 shots, and the timely third period scoring of Mike Richard, who scored his first two goals of the season to stand up for a 3-1 win over Babson.
Saturday was quite a bit more interesting for the Hawks, as the game with the Beacons saw over 100 minutes in penalties and a third period rally from two goals down where again Mike Richard scored twice in the third period to tie the game and send it into overtime, where he assisted on Tim King’s game-winning goal just 31 seconds into the extra frame. Kang again was solid in goal for the Hawks, who now have a second road trip to Castleton and Skidmore this weekend to prove they deserve to be among the league leaders.
Last season, we saw this acronym quite a bit on scoresheets, and already in this opening weekend we saw two in ECAC East play. Castleton turned the trick with the extra attacker to force overtime at UNE, while Babson capped off a comeback from trailing New England College, 3-0, with an EAG by Andrew Bonazza with just 12 seconds remaining in regulation to earn a much-needed point in a game where they outshot the Pilgrims by a 46-21 margin, but needed the third period rally to earn the tie.