This Week in the ECAC West: Jan. 31, 2002

The heart of the ECAC West regular season has finally begun. Inter-league play dominates the schedule of most teams over the next four weeks as each jockey for positions. Elmira is currently in the driver’s seat, knocking
off RIT last weekend to remain the only undefeated team in league play.

Soaring Eagles Gouge the Tigers

Elmira continued its trend this season of defeating nationally ranked teams by knocking off the then No. 1 ranked RIT Tigers 4-2 on Saturday. The Soaring Eagles used a strong forecheck to create turnovers in the first period, and then took advantage of those turnovers to build a lead.

Elmira’s first goal was kind of a fluke, bouncing in off a body in the middle of a scrum in front of the net. But the second and third Soaring Eagles goals scored in the first period were the result of hard work and great plays. Both developed off of forechecking opportunities that Elmira was able to finish on.

RIT came back in the second period, aided by Elmira getting a little lazy and not pursuing the forechecking game plan as aggressively as they did in the first period. The Tigers notched two goals to make the game very interesting, but couldn’t score the equalizer.

An empty netter by Mike Clarke (6-12-18), his second goal of the game, late in the third period was enough to seal the win for Elmira

“The win puts us in a different light,” said Elmira coach Ceglarski. It is
the fifth time this season that the now No. 8 ranked Soaring Eagles has defeated a nationally ranked team, by a combined score of 21-9.

Up and Down the Ice

Utica and Manhattanville sparred in one of those old-fashioned chess game type matches on Friday, eventually ending in a 1-1 tie. The two teams skated up and down the ice all night long, with both coaches making subtle changes and adjustments to try to get that little edge for their team.

“[Utica] did a good job systems-wise,” said Manhattanville coach Keith Levinthal. “It was interesting to go back and forth to change things up with them. I was happy the way we adjusted throughout the game. Utica played pretty loose and relaxed throughout and I think that helped them a little.”

Both goals were scored in the first period. Ray Williams (9-4-13) gave Manhattanville the lead midway through the period. But Brian Margetts (1-1-2) answered back for Utica a little over five minutes later to tie the game up with his first goal of his college career.

The second and third periods were scoreless, although Manhattanville outshot
the Pioneers 33-10 during those stanzas.

Utica coach Gary Heenan told his players to “go after it” in the overtime period and they did just that. The Pioneers outshot the Valiants 6-3 in the
extra period, generated three good scoring chances, and even dinged one off the post. But nothing went in the net and the game ended in a tie.

“The whole game was up and down the ice.” Said Heenan. “We had some real quality chances and so did they. Our goaltender Jake Miskovic was phenomenal and made the big saves when we needed him to.”

Miskovic (.911 Save%, 2.88 GAA) stopped 46 of the 47 shots that Manhattanville put on net.

Entering last weekend’s contest. Heenan set the goal for his team to take at least one point from the upcoming contests against Manhattanville, Elmira, and RIT. Heenan’s thought was that a point from those teams would give Utica a leg up in its quest for a playoff spot.

Well, in just the first of those key contests, Heenan got his wish as the Pioneers earned a point for tying Manhattanville.

“It was a huge point for us, and puts us in the driver seat a little bit,” said Heenan. “We’ll have to adjust our goals a little higher now. The upcoming rematch against Hobart [Feb. 13] is crucial for us.”

Hobart defeated Utica 4-3 in the first meeting on November 3rd. If Utica can beat Hobart by at least two goals in the rematch, the Pioneers would indeed be in the driver’s seat for that coveted fourth playoff spot.

“This Loss is Mine.”

After coaching a strong game against Manhattanville on Friday, Heenan followed up with some blunders on Saturday. Actually, the blunders happened a few weeks ago, but it cost the Pioneers the game anyway as they lost to Lebanon Valley 5-1.

Utica’s original schedule had a game in Hershey to play Lebanon Valley on a different date. However, that was changed early on for various reasons, and rescheduled for this past Saturday evening. All was well and good at this point. Several teams from upstate New York have been pairing up games on a weekend between Manhattanville, Neumann, and/or Lebanon Valley.

However, Lebanon Valley’s coach Al MacCormack called Heenan a few weeks ago and said the game time had to be changed to 2pm due to rink issues.

“I think I got rooked in terms of coaching,” said Heenan. “Al [MacCormack] changed the schedule on us. With the four-hour trip from Manhattanville the
previous night after that game and then this game being in the afternoon, we were tired and had no spunk.”

Lebanon Valley took full advantage of the situation, going four for 10n on
the power play and outshooting the Pioneers 39-22. The only Utica goal was by Ryan Dolan (2-5-7) late in the first period as he scored an unassisted shorthanded goal.

“I told the guys this one was on me, I’ll take the loss for this one,” said

January Streaks

Several ECAC West teams have put together winning or losing streaks throughout the month of January. Some will be looking to continue the winning ways towards the playoffs, while others are looking to plug the holes before the ship sinks completely.

The most impressive streak is probably Elmira, who is currently enjoying a five game winning streak.

The Soaring Eagles started off the month with an ugly road loss to Lebanon Valley. But since then they have reeled off impressive wins against teams like RIT, Plattsburgh, and Potsdam. Throw in victories over Geneseo and Hamilton, and Elmira is on quite a roll.

“This homestand couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Ceglarski. “I think this proved to our guys that success against the top teams wasn’t a fluke.”

Elmira has six games remaining, all league contests, and four of them on the road. The Soaring Eagles will be looking to see if their success can be carried over away from the friendly confines of the Thunderdomes.

Manhattanville is another team with an upside streak in January, although it has been a much quieter path for the Valiants. If someone asked you to pick the ECAC West team that is undefeated in its last seven contests and enjoys the longest undefeated streak in the league, would you pick the Manhattanville Valiants?

Probably not, but it is true. The Valiants have gone 5-0-2 in their last seven games and have earned an impressive 11-4-3 record so far this season. Even the Manhattanville team had to look at the pages to remind itself of the success it has earned this season.

“You have to go back to January 5th to find a loss, but it doesn’t seem that way,” said Levinthal. “We are much higher in the Pairwise and RPI rankings this year, compared to last. But the team still isn’t happy with where we are at. Sometimes I have to remind the guys to take a step back and enjoy the success that they have earned this season and realize how far we have come in only three years.”

Manhattanville has seven games remaining, with four of those league contests. Nothing is assured in the ECAC West this season, and the Valiants need to keep focussed on earning their spot in the playoffs.

Hobart has also been streaking in January, but in the opposite direction. The Statesmen knew that this would be the toughest month of their season with all seven games on the road, and some against very tough competition.

Hobart entered January with a 6-6 record, but came out of the month at a disappointing 7-12. Losses to Middlebury, Potsdam, and Manhattanville punctuated the frustrating month on the road. The only bright spot was a win over Neumann last weekend.

Hobart has six league games remaining, and can keep the ship afloat and make it in to the playoffs, but it won’t be easy. With two games still to be played against RIT, a road contest at Elmira, and the absolutely key game hosting Utica, the Statesmen have perhaps the toughest schedule remaining in the league.

Game of the Week

The best contest this week will most likely be Manhattanville travelling to play Wentworth College. Wentworth is competing at the top of the ECAC Northeast again this season, and has already knocked off perennial powers such as RIT.

The Valiants have been on a roll the last few weeks and will be looking to extend their winning streak in to February. This should be a good contest
from all perspectives.