This past week was a quiet one around the ECAC West. There were only four games, with only one league matchup and two teams idle. But things look to heat back up this weekend as most teams head in to a busy stretch of their schedule in late November and early December.
Not Pushovers Anymore?
Two years ago, Hobart was the doormat of the league, even though its out-of-league record was close to .500. Elmira and RIT were vying for the regular-season title in the 1999-2000 season to earn the right to host the playoffs, and the tiebreaker that year was total goal differential in league play. As the season wound down towards the playoffs, everyone was watching which team would score more goals against Hobart to win the tiebreaker. This led to some pretty ridiculous scores run up against a significantly weaker Statesmen team.
That tiebreaking condition was removed last season, but a little too late for the Statesmen, as it appears that Hobart isn’t the doormat that it was back then anymore. The Statesmen have shown a noticeable resiliency this season, and are a respectable 3-3 so far.
Hobart played Elmira tough last week, although the Soaring Eagles eventually won the game 8-5. Elmira led the game three separate times in the first two periods, but each time Hobart came back to tie the score. The Statesmen enjoyed a brief lead early in the third period before Elmira finally took control of the game for good.
The Hobart teams of old would have folded early on in this game. But coach Mark Taylor has instilled a different mindset in this year’s team, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Hobart pull out a victory in a game against a nationally-ranked opponent before this season is complete.
Elmira is off to a much better start this year as compared to last, with a 3-1 record. However, watching the team play, it’s obvious that they haven’t found the groove yet.
It’s not that they are struggling with the new system of coach Tim Ceglarski, because the system really isn’t all that different. But they are struggling in adjusting from being the physical, push-the-other-team-around-the-ice, dig-in-the-corners team of old, to a fast-skating, carry-the-puck, up-and-down-the-ice squad.
“We are a fast team,” said Ceglarski. “And we have to learn how to use that to our advantage. The players haven’t really figured that out so far this year.”
The other area where Elmira needs to come around is on the penalty kill. The Soaring Eagles are an abysmal 73.9% killing penalties. Hobart scored four power-play goals on only seven opportunities against Elmira in their game last weekend.
The Soaring Eagles are making progress, that much is obvious; but they need to continue to learn how to play to their strengths as the season rolls along.
The Pucks are Flying
Unfortunately for Neumann, all the pucks are flying at its goaltenders. Six games in to the season, Neumann’s netminders have faced 322 shots on goal, an average of more than 53 per game. Sophomore Matt Saur has seen the most time in net, and has a respectable .873 save percentage, but seeing 50-plus shots a game will quickly wear out any goaltender.
Neumann lost a tough game last Sunday to UMass-Dartmouth in overtime 3-2. Saur was the star of the game, even with the loss, turning away 54 of 57 shots, and was named the ECAC West Goaltender of the Week for his efforts.
The Knights then got shellacked 9-0 by Lebanon Valley on Tuesday, being outshot 40-11 Saur and and senior George Pasquarello shared duties in net.
Coach Nick Russo needs to work on reducing opponents’ shots on goal before his netminders start seeing pucks flying at them in their dreams.
Game of the Week
Over the last few seasons, a strong rivalry has developed between Elmira and Plattsburgh, fueled by a consistent home-and-home series each season, and the Soaring Eagles head up to the North Country this weekend to face the No. 1 Cardinals.
Games between these two teams are always hard-fought and physical, but this year Elmira will be looking to use team speed to lead it to victory.