In addition to my ECAC Northeast duties here at USCHO, I cover an AHL team for my local paper.
Last week, I covered a game where the home team came out flying, dominating the visitors in every facet of the game. But when the first five minutes of the second period rolled around, everything was different.
Suddenly, the visiting team turned the tables, carrying the play and generating multiple scoring chances. But then, just as quickly as it began, the moment ended and the game was ripped away from the visitors for good.
After the contest, deep in the bowels of the arena, I was sitting with the head coach in his brightly furnished office along with some other members of the media. The TV was on and the tape of the just concluded game was playing with the sound muted.
He is Western Canadian and when he speaks, you can tell. In addition to his Western Canadian roots, he is distinguishable because he is an older AHL coach, a guy who has been around. His minor league record is outstanding, and he even saw time as an interim coach on the NHL level — unusual in these days of Paul Maurice and Peter Laviolette. And if you think those guys are young, you should see some of the guys manning AHL benches. Many of them are just barely out of the pro game themselves.
With his experience comes a certain innate wisdom that is apparent when he speaks. This is a man who has seen a lot of hockey and gets paid to think about it and apply his knowledge. Soft-spoken and polite, he speaks of hockey with ease, often so that you don’t really realize that he is saying something packed with meaning until later, when you play back the tape.
Anyway, I asked him about those first five minutes of the second, when his team had temporarily been tossed around like rag dolls. I wondered what had happened, if the other team changed something up systems-wise or something. But before I could even finish the question he began to answer.
What he said was that no, the beginning of the second period was just a normal part of the natural ebb and flow of a hockey game and that he has been coaching for twenty five years and there is nothing unusual about that at all. Within games, and within seasons, there are always portions where your team will play exceptionally well or exceptionally poorly and that anything — a sparky shift from your fourth line, a shorthanded goal, or a even something as simple as a player laying out to block a shot — can be a turning point. But at the same time you cannot put too much meaning into one particular five-minute span or even one game. In Jimy Williams-speak, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Now this is a thought that might have come from anyone. But coming from the mouth of that man at that particular moment, it was infinitely wise. He was Yoda to my Luke Skywalker, eager to apply this newfound knowledge to something useful.
Well, maybe that is a stretch, but it really did ring true. When you think about all the peaks and valleys a season, a game, and even an individual shift can go through, it really gets your mind churning.
With that, I hopped into the car on Saturday night and headed an hour West to take in the second night of the Paine Webber Faceoff Classic, hosted by Assumption College in Worcester, Mass.
Driving down Lake Ave., the last road before taking a right into the Buffone Rink parking lot, I began to think again about what the coach had said.
Here I was, going to watch four teams with a lot of early-season questions they would be attempting to answer. I was anxious to see the outcome, but not as anxious as they would be. They wanted to answer those questions right now, and so did I. That would make my job much easier.
Sometimes it’s important for a team to get going right from the start, especially a young team searching for an identity. Most of the time it is the first handful of games of the season that dictate how the first semester is going to go. You’re either working off of the momentum you gained in the first contests, struggling to find some consistency, or desperately trying to gain back some of the wins you lost out on in the beginning.
I pulled into the spot outside the rink, gathered my things and headed towards the entrance.
“Not too much can be made of these first few games. The games are important in that they count on your record but they are not going to make or break a season,”I thought. But they could help either way and so you can’t completely dismiss them. After all, any point of the season can be the impetus to an ebb or a flow.
And with that in mind, I took in the Paine Webber Faceoff Classic.
The Paine Webber Faceoff Classic
Assumption College hosted the fifth annual Paine Webber Faceoff Classic over the weekend. The Hounds took home the trophy for the first time, winning in impressive fashion over two good teams, Salve Regina and Worcester State.
On Friday night the Assumption offense was paced by the first line of Junior Co-Captain Bob Reddish (1-1–2), Freshman Jeff Ilvonen (0-2–2), and Freshman Parker Gately (1-0–2).
Goaltender Dan Lupi played solid in the effort, allowing only two goals on thirty six shots. The Hounds won the game 3-2 over a tough luck Salve Regina team.
On Saturday the offensive impact of the first line continued as Reddish (1-2–3), Gately (2-0–2) and Ilvonen (0-2–2) accounted for all of the Assumption goals. They were all plus three on the night. Lupi was outstanding again, only allowing two goals on thirty one shots and getting the win in the 3-2 victory over the Lancers. Lupi garnered tournament MVP honors.
Bob Reddish’s goal at 0:38 into the second period of Saturday’s contest was highlight reel material. Carrying the puck on the right side of the ice, Reddish moved over the blue line on what was shaping up to be a two on two play. He made a quick fake right, the defenseman bit on it and Reddish, a lefthanded shot, pulled the puck around the flailing defenseman to his forehand before ripping a wrist shot top right corner.
The wins are very important for the Greyhounds who are clearly trying to establish themselves as a new team, already doubling their win total from the first half of last year. This team has more speed and depth up front than in years past and it was evident in the Saturday night game. Some of the Worcester State observers on hand even said that it was the best Assumption team they had seen in five years. With contributions from the youngsters and veterans alike, Assumption looked like a team on the rise.
Worcester State took second place in the four team tournament. The Lancers clawed and scratched their way to second place.
On Friday night the Lancers took on a tough Fitchburg State team. The squads battled for three periods and then some. Despite never trailing in the game and doubling the total shot output of Worcester, Fitchburg couldn’t quite pull out the win. After the overtime, the game was decided in a shootout which the Lancers won 2-1. Officially, the game went into the books as a tie for both teams.
Worcester State benefited from an outstanding effort between the pipes by freshman John Coderre who only allowed two goals on forty four Fitchburg shots.
The efforts of senior forward Chris Susi should not go unnoticed. Susi’s physical presence was evident throughout the weekend. He also scored a goal in each of the two games.
Worcester State and Assumption will battle again on Saturday as the Lancers host the Greyhounds at 7 p.m.
In the first game on Saturday Fitchburg State won the consolation game 4-2 over Salve Regina. Fitchburg stole the game behind three third-period goals.
The entire night Salve goalie Chris Burns was stifling the Fitchburg offense, including a number of flurries right on the doorstep. He looked like he would shut the door, putting the game into the books as a solid and hard fought win for Salve. And then the third period happened and the Falcons took over. Again, ebb and flow.
Two rookies, Robert Zapf and Sebastien Corbeil played great games in the win. Zapf had two goals and Corbeil contributed a goal and an assist to pace the winning Falcon effort.
Conspicuously absent from the goal scoring column during the weekend was one of the league’s premier players, Fitchburg senior Jeff Brodeur. No matter. It was only two games and he played an exceptional game on Saturday night. His talents are obvious and there is no doubt that we will see him light the lamp on numerous occasions in the near future.
With as many as nine freshman in the lineup on any given night, Fitchburg is a young team and for them to put together two solid games like they did speaks to how good they are. Expect FSC to be a tough team all year.
Fitchburg will take on Johnson and Wales on Sunday in what should be a barnburner.
Salve Regina had tough luck all tournament long. They are a better team than their two losses indicate. Third periods have not been kind to Salve thus far. In consecutive nights the Seahawks were outscored in the third and ended up losing because of it.
On Friday night Salve outshot Assumption in every period and was two for seven on the power play but couldn’t quite pull out the win. Assumption scored two third-period goals to Salve’s one and that was the difference.
As mentioned, Saturday saw history repeat itself. The Seahawks, and specifically goaltender Chris Burns had an excellent game. It seemed that they had Fitchburg’s number through two and a half periods. Two Fitchburg goals in a two minute span killed the Seahawks. FSC then netted an empty-net goal to make the final score 4-2.
Junior forward Matt Hillberg led the way offensively for the Seahawks. He had a 3-1–4 line over the weekend including both of the Salve goals on Saturday night.
Goaltending is a huge difference maker. It can mean a few games in the long run, especially late in the season when the old ride the hot goalie axiom kicks in.
In that light, Salve goaltender Chris Burns’ numbers do not do him justice (0-2-1, 2.59 GAA, .927). Saturday night he stoned Fitchburg on numerous occasions and made all the saves he should have made. Only one of the four goals scored, a spectacular individual effort by Fitchburg’s Chad Fletcher, were shots that Burns even had a chance to stop. And Wednesday night he saw fifty shots in the 1-1 tie with UMD, a good tie for Salve at that.
If Burns plays like this all year, the Seahawks are not only set between the pipes, but they will steal a good two to three games from teams that should beat them based solely on goaltending.
Congratulations, Coach Bowes
Wentworth beat Stonehill on Friday night at the Bridgewater Ice Arena 6-3. Junior Dave Zelasko had a hat trick and Freshman Brad Carpenter chipped in with a goal and two assists for Wentworth.
Raj Bhangoo played net for Wentworth and saved 27 of 30 shots.
On Tuesday night the Leopards played host to Western New England College. Wentworth beat the visiting Golden Bears 3-1. Jamie Vanek played well in goal for the Leopards who moved to 2-0 on the season. The Leopards are off until next Wednesday when they travel to Worcester State.
The win was a good one for Wentworth but was even sweeter for head coach Bill Bowes. With Tuesday night’s win, Bowes earned his 200th career victory. Bowes has compiled a record of 76-76-4 at Wentworth and is now an impressive 200-172-12 in his career behind the bench.
In Other Action Around The League
The Dutchmen lost to first year varsity team Utica College 3-1, which is not entirely shocking nor is it shameful for the Dutchmen. Seeing as how the Pioneer roster is made up of predominantly elderly freshmen who came out of junior leagues (which seems to be the trendy and successful way of building a solid team in the first few years of D-III existence), they are not exactly pushovers. Utica is now 1-1-1 on the young season.
LVC is hoping the wins start flowing pretty soon. They will host Framingham and UMass Dartmouth on Friday and Saturday respectively in their first league action of the season.
The UMass-Dartmouth versus LVC game will be a great one to watch. Both teams are coming off of frustrating games and it will be interesting to see who responds better.
While they are in Pennsylvania, the Corsairs will stop at Neumann for a 2:15 tilt on Sunday afternoon. Sunday night’s torturous ride home will be made a lot smoother should Coach Rolli’s UMD crew come out on top. A 2-0 weekend would make it a joyride.
On Wednesday night the Worcester State Lancers faced off against Nichols and it was no contest. Worcester State rattled off seven straight goals, including two from sophomore Dan Marshall, and two in seventeen seconds from Sean Henry, before Nichols even got one on the board. The Lancers went through three Nichols goaltenders en route to the 8-4 drubbing of the Bison. That win moves Worcester to 1-1-1 on the season.
In other action on Wednesday night, the Fitchburg State Falcons traveled to Stonehill to play the 0-2 Chieftains. Don’t let Stonehill’s record fool you. They are a very good team. Their first two games were against the cream of the league crop, Wentworth and Johnson and Wales, and their opening schedule is the toughest of anyone in the league, hands down. They had to be champing at the bit for a win. They seized the opportunity.
The older and more experienced team won out. Stonehill rode two third-period goals including one on the power play by Mike Ryan, his first of the season, to down Fitchburg 2-1.
Stonehill used their third goalie in three games in the win. Freshman Jared Waimon had twenty six saves as he earned the win for the Chieftains who move to 1-2 on the young season.
Stonehill has a long break between games. Their next contest is Wednesday, November 20 when they travel to Waterville Valley, New Hampshire to take on Plymouth State.
The Assumption win streak is over. After winning two straight games the Hounds hosted the Wildcats of Johnson and Wales. Assumption could not maintain momentum as they took it on the chin in a sound 7-2 beating by JWU.
Freshman Manu Mau’u and sophomore Chris Thunman each had three points, contributing two goals and an assist apiece in the winning effort. JWU is now 2-0. Assumption is 2-1.
As alluded to earlier, Wednesday night the Corsairs of UMass-Dartmouth headed down to Rhode Island to take on the Seahawks of Salve Regina. It was the first game of the season for UMD.
Wally Siggins struck on the power play for the Corsairs with just over four minutes remaining in the first period. The goal made it 1-0.
The second period saw Seahawk forward Frank Mingone net the game tying goal at 11:57. That would be it for the goal scoring. After one overtime, the game finished in a 1-1 tie. This was a great tie for Salve as they needed something to hang their hats on for their efforts. They would rather have three wins certainly, but if they keep working like they have been, there will be a switch and things will start flowing the Seahawks’ way.
UMD is 0-0-1 and Salve moved to 0-2-1.
Last but not least was Saturday’s matchup between Nichols and Framingham State. This game turned into a good matchup as the two teams battled hard for four periods.
The teams traded goals in the first and third period before Nichols’ Paul Brady finally beat Framingham State goalie Paul Morgan (38 saves, four GA) in overtime to take the win 4-3.
Mike Loftus and Dan Torti each contributed two points for Nichols while Matt Anderson, David Earl and Joe Horges were multiple point scorers for Framingham. This game was the first of the season for both teams.
For Nichols, sophomore Paul Brady is off to a good start. He scored the overtime goal to capture the “W’ against the Rams and followed that up with a 1-1–2 performance in Wednesday night’s game.
Framingham makes the long trek southward to Lebanon Valley on Friday before coming home and hosting Johnson and Wales on Tuesday.
Nichols will participate in the Curry Tournament this weekend.
The Curry Tournament
Like last weekend’s Paine Webber Faceoff Classic, Curry College will host a tournament featuring four ECAC Northeast teams. The tournament will be played on Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday will see WNEC vs Nichols at three p.m. WNEC is coming off of a game in which they played Wentworth tough. Nichols won against Framingham and followed that up by getting pounded by Worcester State 8-4. This will be an interesting matchup. Who will win is anyone’s guess. The question is, which team is better prepared?
The second game, scheduled for 6:30 will see tournament host Curry playing the Rams of Suffolk University. Each team will be playing their first game of the young season so it should be interesting to see who is able to shake the rust off first.
The consolation game will be played on Sunday at 3 p.m., followed by the championship game scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m.
All games will be held at the Max Ulin Rink in Milton, Mass., the home of the Curry College Colonels.
Remember ebb and flow. Ebb and flow.
And finally …
Things That Keep Me Up At Night
What frustrates me is not so much the line — just that it’s a blatant ripoff of famed sports radio caller “Butch From The Cape.” There is no doubt that many of the journalists who used the phrase knew exactly what they were doing, and that is shameful.