This Week in the ECAC West: Nov. 8, 2001

Travel Partners Next Season

This season isn’t even three weeks old, but the coaches are already looking ahead to next year and how the league will be structured. Starting next season, the ECAC West will use a travel partner system for scheduling purposes. All league games will be played as Friday/Saturday pairs, with the travel partners switching teams between nights.

The partners will be Elmira paired with Hobart, Manhattanville with Neumann, and RIT with Utica

League contests will also be scheduled for the same weekends that the SUNYAC plays its league games. The good news about this plan is that it will leave all the other nonleague weekends available for the teams to schedule cross-league contests. This should help to alleviate some of the scheduling conflicts that have prevented certain ECAC West/SUNYAC games from being played over the past few years.

The bad news is that this may mean that some longstanding ECAC West games might be moved off their traditional weekends. Games such as RIT at Elmira, which is always scheduled in late January for Elmira’s homecoming weekend, or the flip side of Elmira at RIT, traditionally scheduled as the last game of the season, might be moved to accommodate the new schedule.

Television Celebrities

The Manhattanville athletic department has made arrangements to televise six to 12 contests across multiple sports each year through the 2003-2004 season on a tape-delayed basis. Included in this package will be two men’s hockey games this season. The Valiant contests against Hobart on January 26 and against Elmira on February 9 were chosen to showcase. Unfortunately, the contests will only be available in the local cable market, and not nationwide.

Nonetheless, this should be great exposure for Manhattanville’s program, as well as the league as a whole.

Be Careful What You Wish For

“We wanted to schedule the games like this to give our players an idea of what it was like to face these teams back to back on a weekend,” said Neumann coach Nick Russo. “If we are fortunate enough to finish fourth and make the playoffs, they will need to know how to handle great teams back to back.”

Those were Russo’s words in last week’s column. It turned out to be an even tougher weekend that he was looking for.

Friday’s contest against Elmira was a physical contest, with no less than six Neumann players going down with injuries. The Knight’s net also got shelled as they were outshot 85-9, and lost the contest 10-1.

The game on Sunday against RIT went somewhat better. Neumann stayed close and was only down 3-2 midway through the second period. A fluke goal opened the Tiger floodgates, and RIT won the contest going away, 12-2. A moral victory, of sorts, for Neumann was that it was only outshot 54-19 in this contest.

“We can only get better,” said Russo, reminded of last week’s wish. “We have the whole season before we see these guys again. Now we have until February to figure it out.”

Home Opener at the Aud

While Neumann was getting beat up, both literally and figuratively, Utica enjoyed a milder introduction to the league. The Pioneers hosted their inaugural league contest against Hobart last week and it turned out to be quite a game played in front of a healthy crowd of 1,100 fans at the spacious Utica Aud.

Utica enjoyed leads of 2-0 and 3-2 in the first and second periods. But Hobart has found a new trait this season, something that has been missing in past years: tenaciousness. The Statesmen stayed in the contest, and tied the game early in the third period. Trevor Gowan scored the game-winner for Hobart midway through the final stanza, and the Statesmen won their first league contest of the season 4-3.

“We played with some purpose and passion in that game,” said Hobart coach Mark Taylor. “Our locker room has really come together in a way that is encouraging.”

Being in the Spotlight

For a program in only its third season, Manhattanville has been getting plenty of press coverage, and is a topic of conversation in every rink around the league. Coaches, players, and fans are all keeping a close eye on the Valiants as they continue to charge towards the top, both in the league and in national polls.

“Everyone talks about RIT’s rivalry with Elmira, and that certainly has a long and storied history behind it,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “But I think that our games against Manhattanville have been developing into just such a rivalry also, and in some ways may be a stronger rivalry for the players.”

Media outlets have also been putting the spotlight on to the Manhattanville team, watching them develop and compete. Local press and TV coverage, USCHO, and various other media have all been clamoring for time from the coaching staff and players. The Valiants are learning how to deal with being in the spotlight, although the adjustment can be difficult at times.

“I almost wish that the media, and somewhat the fans around the league, weren’t paying as much attention to us as they are,” said Manhattanville coach Keith Levinthal. “I don’t think we are ready to carry that mantle of expectations yet.”

Almost pulling out the win against RIT last weekend in a thrilling game will not do anything but reinforce the kudos and attention that the team has garnered so far.

Game of the Week

Only a few contests are scheduled for this week, but one stands out, if nothing more than for the possibilities. Elmira heads up Route 14 on Saturday night to take on Hobart.

This is Hobart’s opening night in its newly-renovated rink. The Statesmen have shown noticeable improvement this season, while Elmira is off to a much better start than last year. This game should be closer than past meetings between these two teams.

Will Elmira continue its march back towards the top of the league standings? Or will Hobart show that it is not longer the pushovers of the past?

Oh, the possibilities…