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

The season is off to a rip-roaring start as October comes to an end. All five ECAC West teams have seen action, and the freshmen are stepping to the forefront already. The impact of the 2002 recruiting class has been quickly felt across the ECAC West. All of the teams have seen freshmen stand out in their first contests, which bodes well for the future of league.

Freshman Phenoms — Part 1

In both games of its two-game road trip to St. Norbert, Elmira started freshmen goaltenders. Greg Fargo played a solid game in the Friday 6-2 loss. He stopped 26 of 32 shots, but that statistic is a little misleading because of the way the last three goals were scored. The fourth goal was a 5-on-3 against Elmira. The fifth was a 5-on-4 deficit, and the sixth was an empty-netter. Take away those three tallies and Fargo had a solid outing.

“Friday we played pretty well,” said Elmira coach Tim Ceglarski. “[Fargo] played very well. We saw a lot of good things except for the last five minutes. We lost our composure for 30 seconds and it cost us the game. Obviously you can’t do that.”

Ceglarski gave his other freshman goalie, Billy Owczarczak, a go on Saturday. The Elmira defense didn’t play well in front of Owczarczak, and he had a tough outing letting in five goals in a period and a half of play before being pulled.

“He did well, but our guys did a very poor job in our zone,” said Ceglarski. “We did a very poor job of being composed. We were running around the ice and got out of our game. We didn’t have much composure, and got our ears pinned back pretty well.”

At this early stage of the season, it appears that Fargo has taken control of the goaltender position for the Soaring Eagles.

“Greg Fargo has clearly taken over the leadership role as our starting goaltender,” said Ceglarski. “He has told me that the level of intensity in DIII is a lot higher because we play fewer games. He knew how much pressure was on from the first game of the year.”

Freshman Phenoms — Part 2

Utica’s freshmen are also making an impact right from the start. One of the weaknesses of the Pioneers team last season was an anemic power play. Coach Gary Heenan recruited some snipers to try and fill that hole, and it appears to be paying early dividends.

The all-freshman line of Trent Flory, Pat Caslin, and Mark Juliano has been lighting up the scoreboard in Utica’s two games so far. This line accounts for five of the ten goals that Utica has scored this season, including both power-play goals.

“They’re fun to watch,” said Heenan. “It’s a fun line and they all have skill. The guys we brought into score goals are scoring goals. Every freshman that we brought in is involved in the power play.”

Utica is off to a high-scoring start this year in two games against top SUNYAC opponents. The Pioneers lost a close 6-5 affair against Potsdam. But they rebounded to trounce Oswego 5-2, riding two power-play goals and a shorthander to victory.

Heenan was happy to see the offensive production of his team this early in the season.

“The offense was a big positive from the coaching staff’s view,” said Heenan. “I think we only put up five [goals] against four opponents last year. So to put five up against quality teams like Potsdam and Oswego, we were excited.”

But he wasn’t very pleased with the style of hockey that was played.

“It was a wide open style of hockey, one that we don’t preach or teach here,” said Heenan. “There were 2-on-1’s, 3-on-1’s, up and down for both teams. It was a really wide-open style that you almost find consistently with those SUNY teams. They like the shootouts. If we continue to get involved in those styles of games, it’s not our style and we’re not going to win those.”

Freshman Phenoms — Part 3

The freshmen from RIT weren’t going to be left off of the score sheet in their opening games either. The new Tigers scored the first goals in each of the first two games of the season.

Just 4:36 into his first collegiate game, Darren Doherty tallied a goal to get the Tigers rolling against St. Clair. Doherty leads all RIT freshmen in points after three games with a goal and two assists.

In Friday night’s contest against Wisconsin-Eau Claire, freshman Craig Hupp found himself all alone in front of the Blugold net and buried the puck 8:57 into the game to get RIT on the board.

“I thought they both took a step forward,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “It is good to see them get going so quickly.”

Wilson also got a good look at freshman goaltender George Eliopoulos, who started Saturday’s game against Eau Claire. Eliopoulos played the entire game, and stopped 22 of the 24 shots that he faced to earn his first collegiate win.

It is hard to say just how good RIT is this season. The Tigers have blown out the competition in all three of its contests this season by a combined score of 26-6. However, one of those games was an exhibition against Canadian school St. Clair. And Saturday’s game against Eau Claire was spent almost entirely on special teams due to overzealous officiating.

Coach Wilson should get a much better feel for his team this week when the Tigers travel up to Maxcy Hall to take on a reinvigorated, and undefeated, Potsdam team.

Other Freshman Phenoms

Not to be outdone, other teams in the ECAC West are also getting good production out of their freshmen.

Manhattanville’s Sean Keane helped dig the Valiants out of a 4-1 hole against Geneseo to earn a tie. Keane scored Manhattanville’s third goal midway through the second period to keep the rally alive. Keane also netted a goal against Neumann on Wednesday.

Half of Neumann’s team this year is freshmen, so it shouldn’t be surprising that two freshmen lead the Knights in scoring. Mike Burns and Joe Viscuse scored all four goals for Neumann in their three games last week.

Early Problems

Heenan is sending an early-season message to his players concerning their off-ice responsibilities. The Pioneers are playing in the Buffalo State All-Sport Invitational Tournament this weekend, but will be shorthanded. Heenan has suspended six players for the weekend for academic performance.

It is unusual to have suspensions for academic reasons less than two months into the academic quarter. But Heenan believes that academics are paramount and players must attend classes.

“We trying to set the tone here, early in our program,” said Heenan. “Guys have to go to class.”

Game of the Week

The top of the charts this week is the renewal of the annual early season rivalry between Elmira and Oswego. Both teams are coming off hard season opening losses. Oswego has had Elmira’s number the last three seasons, handing the Soaring Eagles an early season loss each time.

“When we have played [Oswego] early in our schedule the last couple of years, we have struggled a bit,” said Ceglarski. “They’re coming off a tough loss, and we’re coming off a tough two losses to St. Norbert. I think we have developed a rivalry with Oswego. I think it is healthy, and the guys get a little more excited when there is more on the line and when other teams think there is more on the line too.”

This game should be a barnburner of a home opener in front of the very partisan Elmira faithful.