This Week in the ECAC West: Nov. 7, 2002

Hobart Wins

Hobart used two dramatic victories to take the title in the Buffalo State All-Sport Invitational tournament last weekend. The stats mavens in the Hobart SID office dug out the archives, and discovered that this is the first regular-season tournament that Hobart has won in 14 years. The last tourney win for the Statesmen was the 1988 St. Bonaventure Tournament, where they beat Buffalo State 13-4 and St. Bonaventure 6-1.

On Friday, Hobart was outshot by Fredonia 33-21, but managed to make its shots count and eke out a 3-2 victory. Justin Maklin, Will Bodine, and Chris Thornton each tallied goals for the Statesmen.

Saturday was a different story. Hobart had its power play working early against host Buffalo State, scoring two extra-attacker goals to build a 2-0 lead by early in the second period. However, Buffalo State battled back, and a two-minute lapse by the Statesmen late in the second period saw the lead erased.

The third period was a big-check bonanza as both teams sent bodies flying with open-ice hits. R.C. Schmidt finally woke up after an early-season scoring drought, and tallied the game-winning goal for Hobart with less than four minutes remaining. An insurance goal was added less than 30 seconds later by Wesley Scott, and Hobart celebrated the tournament win.

Back to Camp

The Buffalo State tournament was not so kind to the Utica Pioneers, who finished a distant last. Utica was coming off a rash of success against top SUNYAC teams, including a close loss against Potsdam and a big win over Oswego.

Utica lost a tight game to Buffalo State Friday night 4-2, a nail-biting contest down to the last few seconds of the third period. Utica held leads of 1-0 and 2-1 during the contest, but Buffalo State always seemed to be able to claw back in. With just 17 seconds left in regulation and the score tied 2-2, Buffalo State’s Morgan McElman scored off a deflection to win the game.

“Our third period is killing us this year,” said Utica coach Gary Heenan. Through the first three games of this year, Utica has given up third-period goals to the opposition in all three games and has been outscored 4-2.

Friday’s loss was deflating to Utica, and it showed in Saturday’s game against Fredonia. The Pioneers couldn’t keep Fredonia away from the crease, and the Blue Devils scored three goals off of scrambles in front of the net. Final score: Fredonia 4, Utica 1.

Heenan couldn’t find any positives to take away from the weekend.

“Everything we got over the past year, we earned,” said Heenan. “We had two great games to start the season, and the boys started getting a little cocky. All of the sudden we think they owe us something. We aren’t good enough to play like that, and that isn’t how I want my team to be.”

Utica has a two-week layoff, before kicking off its league schedule against Elmira.

“We need to start from scratch,” continued Heenan. “We need to refocus. It is back to a camp atmosphere. All spots are up for grabs again. Everyone has to earn a spot on the team.”

Home Opener

After a relatively unsuccessful road trip to St. Norbert, Elmira returned to play Oswego in its home opener. Oswego has trounced Elmira over the last couple of seasons, but this year it was different. The Elmira power play got rolling right off the bat and staked the Soaring Eagles to a quick 2-0 lead just 11 minutes into the contest.

“Thank the Lord our power play got going,” said Elmira coach Tim Ceglarski. “That was the difference in the game. They weren’t real fancy goals, but it was nice to get a few power play goals. We moved the puck around a lot better. This weekend the guys just seemed to relax and move the puck around, and we got the puck to the net.”

Just like Potsdam vs. RIT and Buffalo State vs. Hobart, Oswego came storming back against Elmira to knot the game 2-2. Once tied, the two teams continued to battle it out exchanging another goal each before heading into overtime.

“It was an extremely hard fought, competitive game,” said Ceglarski. “Both teams came in without a win, and were anxious to get a win, and it was a hard fought competitive game for 62 minutes.”

Just over a minute into the extra period, Jarrett Konkle tallied the game winner for Elmira.

Midway through the second period, Dean Jackson was involved in a fracas along the boards, resulting in Jackson receiving a fighting major and a game DQ. Fighting majors are rare enough in college hockey, but what made this situation truly unusual was that Jackson was the only player involved to receive the penalty.

“Having watched the video tape, Dean Jackson was along the boards and an Oswego player came in and received a charging call,” related Ceglarski. “A little scuffle, just guys grabbing each other, ensued and then a gentleman from Oswego came flying into the pile and crosschecked Dean straight to the head.

“His helmet came off, and the two of them went down and Dean ended up on top of this particular young man. Dean did in fact throw a couple of punches and did indeed deserve his fighting major. The person that threw the crosscheck received a two-minute minor. He deserved that two-minute minor and then some. Usually it takes two to fight. This kid came from downtown and just crosschecked Dean right across the head.”

Unable to Shift Gears

When the schedule first came out, the RIT faithful let out a collective groan. While they were happy to see Potsdam back on the schedule, the thought of doing an up-and-back to the North Country for a single game was not appealing. At least it was in mid-November before the weather really started to get bad.

Saturday’s game lived up to expectations on the ice, a close-fought affair leading to a thrilling 4-3 overtime victory for RIT.

The bus ride up and back exceeded expectations as well — the bad expectations.

All was well when the Tigers’ bus headed off campus and hit the highway. The team made good time all the way to Watertown before disaster struck. Pulling off Route 81, the bus driver couldn’t seem to get the bus back into gear.

Uh, oh, the transmission had burned out.

Luckily, the team was near some restaurants to wait it out the three hours while a new bus was sent from Syracuse, 75 miles away. Once they were back on the road, it was smooth sailing, and the teams hit the ice only about two hours late.

RIT stormed out to a two-goal lead midway through the first period, before Potsdam came storming back to tie the game 2-2. It was tit-for-tat in the third period as RIT scored only to watch Potsdam answer.

Finally, with time running out in overtime, Ryan Fairbairn scored for RIT to send the Tigers home happy.

Everyone piled back into the bus, and headed to the Syracuse bus terminal to change buses. The terminal was flooded, so the players had to wade through ankle-deep water to carry their gear to the new bus. Then it was slowly down the thruway through blinding lake-effect snow for the final leg of the trip home.

It seems like RIT has had a number of these bus Odysseys the last couple of years.

Game of the Week

The new travel partner system debuts this weekend when the Manhattanville/Neumann partnership travels to take on Hobart/RIT. The Game of the Week is Friday night, when Manhattanville visits RIT. The Valiants have been close to knocking off RIT, but haven’t quite gotten the job done yet. With a batch of highly-skilled freshmen on this year’s team, the time may be ripe for Manhattanville to knock off the Tigers.