This Week in the ECAC Northeast: Jan. 24, 2002

The (High-)Flying Dutchmen

Lebanon Valley continues to function on all cylinders. The Flying Dutchmen are living up to their nickname as they are the current holder of the nation’s longest active winning streak in all divisions. LVC has won 14 in a row. Some of its most recent have been the toughest tests.

Saturday’s game against Salve Regina was a potential trap game. Nope. The Dutchmen took care of any doubts with a 6-1 win over the Seahawks. Next up was Sunday’s premier matchup with Johnson and Wales. LVC stormed back from an early 1-0 deficit with three unanswered goals, including two in the third period to take the 3-1 win. The Dutchmen then followed that up with a 9-0 whitewashing of Neumann.

Leading the way for the Dutchmen has been Brian Yingling. He has eight points in the last three games and currently leads the conference with a 15-19–34 line. His offensive output earned him ECAC Northeast POTW last week as well as USCHO Offensive POTW considerations.

Lincoln Matlock and Kevin Block sit atop the goaltending statistics in virtually every category, so it isn’t just LVC’s offense that is supercharged.

I’m not sure if people fully understand what is happening down there in the Amish country. Do fans realize that LVC has not lost a game since November? A very long time ago?

And LVC isn’t just winning, it’s doing so convincingly, to the tune of 92-26, for a goal differential of +67 on the season. In wins, the differential is 88-18. LVC has the number-one scoring offense and the number-one scoring defense in the ECAC Northeast. All of those statistics combined are almost unfathomable. What it amounts to is virtually total domination. Hats off to LVC.

LVC will try and continue that dominance this weekend, hosting Utica Saturday afternoon and Assumption Sunday afternoon.

Ebb and Flow Revisited

Hockey is a unique sport, as all of us fans know. Anything can change the course of a game and/or a season for a team. Maybe a bout of mono or a fluke injury keeps some of your better players out of the lineup for a while.

One night, your fourth line may pop a few unexpected goals. Another, your goaltender is seeing the puck like it’s a beach ball and making saves that he would never be expected to make. Maybe your team is playing the systems so perfectly that the opposition has no answer, no matter what adjustments they make. And for whatever reason, one night a team can get upended by an inferior team and come out and blow that same team out by five goals the next night. This kind of thing seems to happen more in hockey than in any other team sport.

In an earlier column I wrote about the ebb and flow of a hockey season — a theory told to me by a coach who is a veteran of decades of pro hockey. In a lot of ways we are seeing that theory play itself out in the past few weeks.

If you found yourself checking the scores from last week and this week and muttering things like “jeez” and “whoah” and “insert one-word exclamation of surprise here,” then you’re not alone.

These scores made me think back to that theory. What is happening in the Northeast is very much validating what that coach said. Mainly, the old cliche “that’s why they play the games” is playing itself out.

For instance, 3-8-2 Salve Regina traveled to Boston on Wednesday night to take on a 14-2 Wentworth buzzsaw that was also undefeated in the conference. By most people’s estimation, the game would be a one-sided affair, with Wentworth taking it to the eighth-place Seahawks just like it did to practically every other Northeast opponent thus far. Salve was 1-3-1 in the second half of the season heading into the tilt with Wentworth and fresh off a 6-1 rout at the hands of Lebanon Valley and a 2-2 tie against Plymouth that saw the Seahawks score two games in 22 seconds to steal a point. Again, like the saying goes, that’s why they play the games.

In the early going Wentworth took a 2-0 lead and the game appeared to be playing the aforementioned scenario out. Then the third period started and Salve rattled off four unanswered goals to take home the 4-2 victory and immediately re-establish themselves as a team not to be taken lightly. Ask Curry about the Seahawks and you’ll hear the same thing.

Speaking of Curry, it is one of the teams that may be in the midst of the ebb portion of its season. After starting the season 7-3 and earning an A+ for their turnaround-type start, the Colonels find themselves in a five-game slide, 0-4-1, in the second half. Suddenly, what looked like it was just one of those games against Salve, a 6-2 loss, seems like it could have been the start of something. An opportunity to right the ship and regain some of that first half magic against Wentworth went by the boards as the Leopards came into Milton and won handily to the tune of 5-2.

And then comes Wednesday night against Southern New Hampshire. Although they outshot the Penmen 42-37, the Colonels gave up three first-period goals and scored their fifth goal on the power play with eight seconds in the game. The final 8-5 score, a loss for the Colonels, was not even that close.

It may be making a mountain out of a molehill but it may be something very real, momentum works in funny ways like that, especially in hockey.

What’s With the Blowouts?

A disturbing trend seemed to develop in the Northeast over the last week. That is, a number of the teams at the top seem to be distancing themselves from the teams at the bottom, not only in the standings, but dramatically in the scores and the particulars of those scores.

Case in point: Saturday saw the Fitchburg State Falcons dismantle WNEC 5-1. Then, on Tuesday night, the Falcons thumped Nichols, outshooting the Bison 61-25. Nichols took only three penalties and two of them resulted in Falcon goals.

On the very same night, UMass-Dartmouth, undefeated in the second half, handed Suffolk a 9-0 defeat and embarrassed the Rams, holding them to only nine shots. That’s right, UMD held its opponents to as many shots as it had goals, an astounding feat.

On the Bright Side

Let’s not focus entirely on the uneven affairs of the past week. Some of the best games of the season were also played over the last seven days We already talked about the Wentworth versus Salve game. That was a good one. We also touched a little bit on the game that saw Salve travel to Plymouth. But let’s not gloss over that remarkable contest.

The Seahawks pulled Chris Burns with 1:30 on the clock. Then Billy Baker took over, scoring at 19:38 to pull within one. Then, just 16 seconds later, he potted his second extra attacker goal to tie the game at two. Talk about a clutch 1:30 of hockey. Mega-Kudos to the Seahawks for their play over the last week. You just can’t count these guys out, obviously.

Another great game saw UMass-Dartmouth take on an up and coming, flowing if you will, SNHU team. The Penmen gave the Corsairs all they could handle, climbing back into the game from a first period 4-0 deficit to pull the game within reach. Four third-period goals, including one with just ten seconds on the clock had SNHU within one and with a chance to tie it in the waning seconds of the game. Chris Dussault’s empty-net goal with three seconds left iced it for the Corsairs. Great game though.

And how about the marquee matchup of the weekend, between Lebanon Valley and Johnson and Wales? It didn’t quite live up to the hype, but at least it was a good one. LVC pulled out a 3-1 victory, maintaining its stronghold on the conference and not disrupting the standings.

This Weekend

UMass-Dartmouth and Fitchburg State will face off on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in Dartmouth. Do yourself a favor and go to this game, featuring one of the league’s most heated rivalries as both squads are traditional powerhouses.

UMD has won eight in a row and may be the league’s best team right now. Fitchburg has also been hot as its only setback of the second half came against Wentworth. Fitchburg is pounding the opposition lately and Jeff Brodeur, who may be the league’s most dangerous offensive weapon, is leading the way.

If you are a fan of Division III hockey and the ECAC Northeast, and you plan on doing at least one hockey-related thing this weekend, go to this game.

I beg of you.