This will be my last column of 2000, and as the holidays approach, my thoughts turn to the gifts I would bestow on certain folks in the D-III hockey world.
Now’s my chance to play Santa!
To opponents of the Middlebury Panthers – Shots on goal, and a lot of luck. You’ll need it. The Panthers, ranked number one in the latest USCHO.com Division III poll, have been nearly perfect in their own zone so far this season. The goaltending tandem of freshman Marc Scheuer and sophomore Christian Carlsson have allowed just one goal on 98 shots in six games. That’s just 16 shots a game by opposing teams.
To fans of teams playing at NESCAC schools – A chance to visit some of the campuses, which are just gorgeous, especially in the winter. I remember a couple of seasons ago walking into the rink at Williams, with my boots crunching under the lightly falling snow and the bell tower chiming out the hour. Just a great campus setting. Colby, Middlebury and Hamilton are all the same way. Rustic surroundings, intimate rinks and kick-butt hockey.
To opponents of RIT – A “Get Out of the Penalty Box Free” card. The Tigers are clicking at a 51.5% rate with the man advantage: 34 of 66 through 11 games. That’s sick. Last weekend, RIT defeated host Air Force 4-3 in the championship game of the Radisson Inn Classic by scoring three times on a single major penalty to the Falcons.
To Plattsburgh – A season where all anybody cares about is what goes happens on the ice. It’s a blessing and a curse being the number-one sports attraction in town. I’m sure that other programs have had off-ice incidents, but they aren’t constantly under the glare of a media spotlight like the Cardinals are.
To the MIAC – The end to their “running time” mercy rule. In games at MIAC schools, when one teams gets up by 10 goals (fortunately a rare occurrence) the clock doesn’t stop until the game’s over. We don’t even do this in PeeWees — it cheats the players of game time and makes stats for players in these games hard to compare with others. The netminder’s GAAs will be slightly lower, and offensive players will be cheated out of equitable scoring opportunities. Steve Aronson set all kinds of MIAC records for his career, and I know he played in some blowout games. How many points would he have had if he hadn’t missed shifts in those games due to a running clock?
Last weekend, this rule was part of a nasty incident in a game between Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Augsburg. Some at the game said that the Blugolds, trailing 9-1 at the time, intentionally pulled their goalie and did not contest two Augsburg goals in order to invoke the mercy rule and speed up the end of the game. Other sources claim Eau Claire allowed the goals to get its players out of the box quickly and move on. In any event, the Blugold players eventually left the ice in the third period and allowed the clock to run out, making the game technically a 1-0 forfeit. What a mess.
To RIT – Another Bournazkis brother. The two at RIT, senior Peter and sophomore Mike, are scoring 5.26 points a game between them. They are currently first (Pete) and tied for second (Mike) in the nation in total points. Mike is leading the nation in assists, while Pete is fourth in goals and second in power-play goals — to another RIT player, Derek Hahn. I did mention those 34 power-play goals for RIT.
To Norwich – A chance to work out the bugs that have caused the defending national champion to get off to a 3-4 start. The Cadets are very young, but have reloaded, not rebuilt. Given time, I expect them to make the NCAA tournament and have a chance to defend their title.
To Potsdam and Wisconsin-Stout – A ban on the “Cinderella” label. Both of these teams are for real, especially the Bears, who will give Plattsburgh a run for the SUNYAC title. Even if they don’t got that far, expect Potsdam to be in contention for the NCAA pool “C” slot.
If the Stout Blue Devils can keep it up, they’ll have home ice in the NCHA playoffs, and then anything can happen.
To the ECAC West – A couple of new teams (Neumann and Utica next season) and someone to make this more than a two-horse race. Manhattanville and Hobart can play with RIT and Elmira, but need more confidence.
To Jason Boudrow – Some recognition. The junior from Tufts is averaging an unreal 3.71 points per game so far. The Somerville, Mass., native has 10 goals and 16 assists in just seven games. He’s on a pace to score 89 points this season.
To Elmira – A return of the fickle fans that have left for the lure of “beer and fighting” at the Elmira Jackals’ games at the new Coach USA arena. The new United Hockey League team has cut into attendance at the Domes so far. But the Soaring Eagles are getting hot, so maybe that will bring back some fair-weather fans.
To the NCHA – A bigger NCAA tournament field. With four and often five teams in the USCHO.com Top 10, at most two and possibly only one will make the Big Dance. What a dogfight the league playoffs will be.
To the D-II schools, especially Minnesota-Crookston – A national championship to call their own. The five D-II schools in the ECAC at least get to have a D-II tournament, but the Golden Eagles are stuck in the MCHA, and will have to settle for a shot at defending that title against some D-III programs.
To Dana Marek – A few more years of eligibility and a hot tub. The 47-year-old sophomore for UMass-Boston has two assists so far, and has got to be one of the leaders in the dressing room. He’s been given a chance because Joe Mallen is short on players, but who knows? He can play till he’s 49.
To the coaches and players – A dearth of injuries and lots of exciting games.
And finally, to the fans – May all your hockey wishes come true! Have a great holiday season, and I’ll see you at the rink.
Last Week: 3-1
On the Season: 22-10
Only a few teams are in action, so this will be a short list:
Augsburg at Wisconsin-River Falls (12/15): This one could have postseason implications. UWRF is the best team in the West, and here’s another chance to prove it. UWRF 6, Augsburg 3.
Wisconsin-Superior at St. Thomas (12/15): Here’s a chance for the Tommies to end a disappointing first half of the season on a high note. However, the ‘Jackets are just too strong. UWS 4, St. Thomas 3
Wisconsin-River Falls at Wisconsin-Eau Claire (12/16) – This is a nonconference game, but don’t tell it to these guys. The Blugolds will be missing some players due to all the DQs at Augsburg last weekend. UWRF 5, Eau Claire 2.