There’s quite a hodgepodge of topics in this week’s column, including game reviews of Elmira’s big win over Plattsburgh, and Neumann’s penalty-filled affair with Buffalo State. In addition, Utica played against its role model, and the Pioneers home rink takes over the top spot among ECAC West arenas.
It was a barnburner — or more appropriately, a Domeburner — at the Murray Athletic Center last weekend, as expected. Elmira defeated Plattsburgh 4-1, completing the season sweep of the defending national champion Cardinals. Elmira beat Plattsburgh in the opening round of the series 2-1 at Plattsburgh in November.
“It was pretty exciting from the opening faceoff to the last click on the clock,” said Elmira coach Tim Ceglarski.
Elmira took the body to Plattsburgh right out of the gate, playing a physical forecheck that seemed to
frustrate the Cardinals.
“We started to put pressure on their defense right from the opening faceoff,” said Ceglarski. “Part of that was physical, part wasn’t. But when you take young men, put them in a stressful situation in front of a big crowd, sometimes the adrenaline adds something to their hits.”
The Soaring Eagles played in front of their largest crowd of the season, as over 2,500 filled the Thunderdomes.
Elmira built up a 3-0 lead midway through the second period to control the game. Jason Cassells (7-5-12), Clark McPherson (7-2-9), and Pierre Rivard (10-13-23) were the scorers for Elmira. Plattsburgh chipped in a goal early in the third period, but that was the only score it could put on the board.
Dean Jackson (7-9-16) scored the insurance goal with two minutes remaining to seal the victory for Elmira. Jackson also assisted on McPherson’s and Rivard’s goals to lead Elmira with a three-point night.
“Dean [Jackson] played extremely well,” said Ceglarski. “He moved the puck very well and showed a lot of leadership on the ice.”
Elmira is now 4-0 when it plays teams ranked in the USCHO.com poll. When asked if he hoped RIT would stay in the poll when it visits Elmira on January 26, Ceglarski artfully dodged the question.
When Manhattanville started up its program three years ago, coach Keith Levinthal laid out his plans for the program. He incorporated many tools found in the corporate world into his philosophy: things like Vision Statements, Value Statements, Objectives, and more. Levinthal isn’t the first hockey coach to use these tools, but the way he put them together has been the foundation of the success the program has achieved already.
When Gary Heenan was named as head coach of the fledgling Utica program in the fall of 2000, he looked around college hockey to see how other teams had built a program from the ground up. He saw Manhattanville and the things they had done, and decided that the Valiants were a good program to choose as a role model.
Heenan and the Utica Pioneers have seen their efforts pay off this season, achieving a respectable 7-7-2 record so far.
Last Friday, the student met the mentor for the first time on the ice, with Manhattanville winning 2-0 and the goaltenders for both teams having outstanding games. Jake Miskovic (.909 SV%, 2.73 GAA) for Utica stopped 34 of the 36 shots he faced. Manhattanville’s Jon Peczka (.885 SV%, 3.31 GAA) pitched the shutout, stopping 33 shots. The win moved Manhattanville into sole possession of third place in the league standings.
Being in the position of a role model has been a little awkward for Levinthal and the Manhattanville team.
“Utica is a lot like us in our first year,” said Levinthal. “They work hard and can play with almost anyone.”
Even with the loss to Manhattanville, and with the success Utica has seen so far this year, Heenan believes that there is still much to be learned by following the “Manhattanville Model.”
“The Manhattanville program is going in the right direction,” said Heenan. “They are a step ahead of us, so they remain a good role model for us.”
Time in the Box
Neumann hosted Buffalo State for a pair of games last weekend, and the series turned into penalty-fests. The two teams combined for an incredible 244 minutes of penalties over the two-game span.
Friday night, Buffalo State beat Neumann 8-1, outshooting the Knights 51-27. Neumann racked up 60 minutes in penalties, while Buffalo State contributed 30 minutes. Half of Neumann’s penalty time was from three misconducts; the rest was all from minors.
The game started out close — at least for the first few minutes. Neumann’s Jeff Marinari (6-1-7) answered an early Buffalo State goal at 2:36 to tie the game 1-1. But Buffalo State retook the lead just two minutes later and it was all downhill from there for the Knights.
Saturday’s game was more of the same. Buffalo State won this one 10-2, outshooting Neumann by a similar 48-27 margin. But the penalty totals in this game were even higher. Neumann managed 79 minutes in penalties while Buffalo State contributed 75 minutes of its own to the totals.
Three game disqualifications, three majors, four misconducts, and a boatload of minors were spread evenly between the two teams. Buffalo State built a 3-0 lead by the end of the first period and never looked back, as far as the scoreboard was concerned.
Buffalo State has been known off and on through the years as a team that likes to get under its opponent’s skin with physical hockey. And Neumann has had problems with staying out of the box in many games this year. Put those two teams together in a series of games, and the fireworks were bound to explode.
Utica Rink Tops the List
RIT’s Ritter Arena and Elmira’s Murray Athletic Center are both fine facilities for these perennial ECAC West competitors. Both rank among some of the best facilities in Division III. However, at least in my opinion, their position atop the list of ECAC West facilities, and perhaps in Division III as a whole, has been replaced.
The new champion is the Utica Memorial Auditorium, home of the Utica College Pioneers. This arena gives the college game a real pro hockey feel.
The Aud, as it is affectionately known, was built between 1958 and 1960, and was last renovated in 1998. It seats 4,000 in a U-shaped bowl, with a stage encompassing the flat end of the ‘U.’ The Aud was one of the first arenas constructed with a two-layer, pre-stressed cable suspension system to support the roof.
The building has been home to many different hockey events over the years. In 1962, the Aud hosted the Division I Final Four, where Michigan Tech won its first of three championships.
Pro teams that have played there are the Mohawk Valley Prowlers (UHL ’98-’01), Utica Blizzard (CoHL ’94-’97), Utica Bulldogs (CoHL ’93-’94), Utica Devils (AHL’87-’93), Mohawk Valley Stars (ACHL ’81-’87), Utica Mohawks (NEHL ’78-’79, EHL ’79-’80), and the Mohawk Valley Comets (NAHL ’73-’77). With the demise of the Mohawk Valley Prowlers last summer, Utica College is now the highest level of hockey played there.
An interesting sidebar is that the movie Slap Shot was filmed in the Utica Aud in 1975. After visiting, you will need to rush home and re-watch the movie to see if you can spot the scenes that were filmed in the rink.
Utica built new NHL-style locker room facilities prior to the season for both the men’s and women’s teams. The additional facilities also include offices for the coaches, a training room, and storage room. Visiting teams use the older locker rooms of the rink.
The usher staff is plentiful and helpful and concessions are available. Without gushing too much, I would rank the Aud right up there with any Division III rink across the country.
It is worth a visit if you are ever in the area on game night. Utica has been drawing crowds in the 1300-1500 range, which is respectable for any Division III hockey program, let alone a first-year team.
One caution, though. Plug your ears when Utica scores a goal. That horn is loud.
For the record, my list of the ECAC West rinks in order of preference is:
1) Utica’s Memorial Auditorium — gives the game a pro feel with great seats and amenities.
2) RIT’s Ritter Arena — nice rink with great amenities and intimate feeling.
3) Elmira’s Murray Athletic Center — this rink can get rocking when the fans get going.
4) Hobart’s Geneva Community Rink — new varsity room, boards, and ice are all great improvements, but they still need to add a wall.
5) Manhattanville’s New Roc City Rink — nice bleacher seating for the fans, but poor visiting locker rooms, no press facilities, and an incredibly gaudy paint job lower the score.
6) Neumann’s Ice Works — typical community rink setup. Last time I was down there renovations were incomplete, so my assessment may not be fair.
Game of the Week
The annual renewal of the RIT/Oswego series is on tap for this weekend. These two teams traditionally play a home-and-home series in January, and the rivalry goes back a long ways. This is the way hockey should be played: home and home on back to back nights, which reinforces natural rivalries; the fans, players, and coaches always look forward to it every year. A sweep or split by RIT will give the Tigers a leg up on Elmira in the common-opponents category in NCAA Pool B tournament qualifying.
But Oswego won’t roll over for RIT. These are the last nonconference games for Oswego before the second half of the SUNYAC schedule gets going. A sweep of nationally-ranked RIT could put Oswego back on the map to contend for a NCAA bid.