This Week in the ECAC Northeast: Nov. 22, 2001

As we approach the heart of the first half, it’s time for the Thanksgiving weekend tournaments. These are always fun because often times they match teams up that don’t get to play each other on a regular basis. This will be the case this year as well.

A good number of Northeast teams will be participating in the tournaments. Plymouth and SNHU will play in the annual PAL Cup. Framingham and Stonehill will participate in the Coca-Cola Classic at Stonehill, and the Babson Invitational will test the UMass-Dartmouth Corsairs.

Still other Northeast teams have plain old regular-season games while others will be using the long weekend for extra time off or for practice time. Either way, all the ECACNE teams better be ready because the meat of the schedule is approaching. The season is now in full swing.

New Beginnings

Two teams kicked off new seasons last week, in more ways than one. Plymouth State and Southern New Hampshire University, formerly New Hampshire College, both got underway in the last week. But it is a new beginning for both teams. One has a new coach. The other has a new name and with it, a new team.

Plymouth alum Chris Hudon made his coaching debut this past week behind the bench of his alma mater. Heading into this weekend’s action the Panthers are a respectable 1-2-0 overall and in the conference.

The Panthers got their first win of the season and first of Hudon’s career on Tuesday night with a solid 2-1 victory over the visiting Stonehill Chieftains.

After a rough start in which Plymouth dropped games to Salve Regina and UMass-Dartmouth, Hudon was a little frustrated

“We were taking stupid penalties here and there. But we’re working on that,” he said, “and we didn’t give Larry a whole lot of help back there.”

“Larry” is goaltender Larry Forgue, who had an outstanding night between the pipes on Tuesday, stopping 49 of 50 Chieftain shots.

Hudon saw the win as beneficial for the overall attitude of the players and particularly for the direction of the team.

“It was a good win. We needed a little success to have the players buy into what I’ve been telling them.”

Hudon hopes that the team can use the quality win over a solid Stonehill club as a building block and carry the momentum over into the meat of the schedule, which is approaching quickly.

“It won’t get any easier for the Panthers,” is how Hudon characterized the upcoming schedule for PSC.

They will participate in the PAL Cup in Hooksett, New Hampshire on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday they will play St. Scholastica, who visits New England from the NCHA, where they are struggling at 1-6-0.

According to Hudon, you can’t look at their record and take them likely because he admittedly does not know much about the team or even the league.

“We’re going in blind, but so are they,” he said about the PAL Cup opener. “Hopefully, we can kick them while they’re down.”

Should they win on Saturday, Sunday’s game will be at 4 p.m. at the Tri-Town rinks in Hooksett. If they lose, they will play in the consolation game at 1 p.m. After the tournament, Plymouth’s next game action will come at New England College on Tuesday and against LVC the following Friday.

Hudon’s assessment of that schedule is right. The Panthers will have to play some outstanding hockey to beat those two teams.

A new era has begun at Southern New Hampshire University. Donning new uniforms, a new school name, and competing with a team whose roster is almost completely new, at least in the offensive ranks, the Penmen came out and answered an important preseason question. Namely, how will this team score?

Last year’s graduating class took almost all of the offense with them but, with the 7-1 win over Framingham State, it looks like scoring may not be a problem.

“We’ve got some good young freshman forwards who I’m really pleased with,” said coach Rene Leclerc. Mike Flynn and Chris Russo were two forwards who Leclerc mentioned as being particularly pleased with.

Leclerc liked the offensive output of the first game but maintains his preseason stance that this team will live and die by the defense. He was very happy with the goaltending of sophomore Brian Holland in the first game and thinks that his defense is solid. He would have liked to have seen a more solid effort though, saying that the team gave up too many shots.

“It was a good beginning but I didn’t think we played well enough defensively. We’ve got to play better defense than we did.”

The Penmen will host the PAL Cup at the Tri-Town Arenas in Hooksett, N.H., this weekend. The tournament will include SNHU, St. Anselm, Plymouth State, and St. Scholastica of the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association, who will visit all the way from Minnesota.

Around The Rinks

Interesting things have been happening around the league. We’ll look at them briefly.

Wentworth continues its record-breaking, beginning the season with a 5-0 record. Amazingly, it is the first time since in their varsity existence that they have started out undefeated after four games and, with their fifth win, they broke the record again. The Leopards look to move to a first ever 6-0 record against a tough New England College team this weekend.

Are the sleeping giants awake? That must be the question some coaches are asking themselves after two traditionally strong teams, UMass-Dartmouth and Fitchburg State, posted huge, statement making wins over the weekend.

UMD pounded Plymouth in the Panthers’ first game of the season to the tune of 7-1 and followed that up with a very impressive 2-1 victory over a solid Worcester State team. Are the Corsairs coming out of their slumber (1-2-1 in first four games)? Only time will tell. UMD will participate in the Babson Invitational this weekend and then head to Fitchburg to take on their rivals Wednesday night in what should be a fun game to watch.

Fitchburg smoked WNEC 8-0 on Saturday, marking the first time they have scored over four goals and only the second time they have scored over two goals in a game. The question begs to be asked, have they solved their offensive woes and are they now ready to put together a nice string of wins? Again, as in the case of UMD, only time will tell.

The Falcons won’t play until Monday when they travel to Suffolk to take on the Rams and then they will host their fellow traditional league power UMD on Wednesday. Again, this should be a great one to take in.

Two teams have taken some hits on their bids for a perfect season, Johnson and Wales and Curry. In a non-shocking development, both teams took their lumps on the road and both came in the seemingly ECAC Northeast non-friendly confines of the state of New York.

JWU traveled to Cortland and Utica respectively and lost both games. What was missing in New York was JWU’s ability to score in bunches. Previously, they had racked up four and five goal periods like it was normal. In New York they could only muster up two goals in each game. They must have been ebbing on their road trip. Loyal ECACNE column readers know what I’m talking about there.

Curry had a bit more success on the road than their Northeast counterparts. They came home from the trip with an outstanding 4-1 overall record. Consensus opinion is that anything .500 or above on a road trip is a successful road trip. In that way, Curry was successful.

Their 5-3 victory over Brockport State did not come easy and in that sense it was a tremendous victory, especially for a young squad. Curry was down 3-0 until 8:44 of the third when they scored their first of five unanswered goals to steal the victory from their hosts. Curry also had 47 shots in the game.

On Sunday Curry visited one of the worst buildings in college hockey when they traveled to Geneva, New York to take on the Statesmen of Hobart. Although, I’ve heard that the arena in Geneva is not so bad now due to some new renovations, but I digress.

Hobart is an underrated squad and they play in the West, a very tough conference. There can be no shame in losing to those guys. The only thing of the Colonels that is tarnished is their previously perfect record. Oh well, so Curry won’t be undefeated.

With that road trip, and with the wins posted before the trip, Curry looks like they are definitely for real. We will see if they can continue their winning way next Wednesday against SNHU.

Assumption’s bubble may be bursting a little, or maybe they are just ebbing a little too. After a strong 4-1-1 start, the Hounds have been on a bit of a slide the last two games. They ran into the machine that is Wentworth last Saturday, losing 5-0 in non dramatic fashion. They followed that up with a no show 8-1 drubbing at the hands of fellow Division II opponent St. Michaels. They are going to have to start showing up against good teams if they want to compete in March.

With LVC’s 5-3 victory over Geneseo State they are undefeated since their first two games. Nobody should be surprised by that.

Framingham has been taking their lumps this season, to the point where a mere 3-1 loss to ECAC East opponent Babson has to be an encouraging development. Hopefully, those guys can turn that ship around and start posting some wins sometime in the near future.

Nichols was off last week. They will be back in action on Tuesday when they travel to Stonehill for a 7 p.m. tilt.

Suffolk is another team that has taken their lumps. They are winless through four games. Like Framingham, hopefully the near future will show some improvement and they can begin to steal some wins here and there. If they win their next four, they can go into the break at .500 with a 4-4 record.

One reader wrote an email to me last weekend pointing out a score that I predicted wrong even though I predicted the outcome right. I explained to the reader that there were two scores last week that literally made me say “Wow” out loud to myself when I read them. One of those was Fitchburg’s 8-0 win over WNEC.

The reason for the exclamation? WNEC is not that bad, even at 1-4. They should win at least a couple of games before the break. They hope to turn things around with three games in the coming week beginning with Framingham on Tuesday.

The other score that made me say wow was Salve’s 7-3 pasting of Plymouth. Salve has scored thirteen goals in two games and Chris Burns is proving himself to be one of the best goaltenders in the Northeast Conference. The Seahawks will only get better too. They have a long break before getting underway again. Salve will play next Saturday at home against SNHU.

1-3-3 is a weird record. That is Worcester State’s predicament after back to back 2-1 losses. The Lancers haven’t lost a game by more than one goal yet so they are much better than their record indicates. They need to start making some of their breaks to get that puck bouncing in their favor so they can get the wins flowing. Sunday’s tilt with Salem State will be a very tough battle for WSC. They will have to score early and often to keep up with the Vikings.

And Finally…

  • Boston College football player Willie Green was mounting a Heisman campaign all by himself, which would have been a pretty cool story because it was kind of a throwback to the way it used to be.  The way it should be. No banners in Times Square, no web pages, none of that garbage. One of the few legitimate nationally-coveted blue-chip skill guys that the Eagles have, Willie was a major get. He uses speed, explosiveness, patience, vision, and a healthy combination of excellent football smarts and instincts to be one of the top running backs in the nation, as a junior. It’s just all Willie Green on the football field. I love that. Good God, would Green look good in a Patriots uniform in a couple of years.
  • All of that makes it all the more remarkable that BC head coach Tom O’Brien had the testicular fortitude to bench him when he did, in a prime-time matchup against the number-one team in the country and top contender for the Big East title, Miami. Not many coaches would have had the guts to make the same decision. And Green probably was the difference between a BC win and a BC loss. O’Brien proved that he is a man of uncompromising integrity, something which is all too rare these days.
  • I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving.  I did.  And I have a five-year high school reunion later.  I’ll tell some stories, should they be printable.