This Week in the ECAC West: Dec. 5, 2002

Advantage at Playland

It hasn’t taken long for Manhattanville to get comfortable in its new home this year. The Valiants moved in to Playland Ice Casino during the summer after three seasons at New Roc City, and are undefeated at home so far this year. Including the early-season exhibition against Canadian team Seneca College, Manhattanville is 5-0-1 in the friendly confines of Playland, and have kept five of those six opponents to only two goals per game.

“We want to establish ourselves that when you come down to Manhattanville, it is a tough place to play,” said Manhattanville coach Keith Levinthal. “And that’s all that we are looking to do.”

The latest conquest at home was against Williams, which Manhattanville defeated 6-3. The game swayed back and forth throughout most of the first two periods. Each team led by a single goal at various times before the other would tie it back up.

“It was a pretty fast game,” said Levinthal. “I had a few people say after the game that that was the fastest game they have seen played at Playland in the last 10 years. There was a lot of flow to the game.”

That kind of high-tempo game played right in to the hands of Valiant sophomore Jason Kenyon. Kenyon broke the 3-3 tie early in the third period, and then put away the game with two more goals. The natural hat trick was a spectacular way for Kenyon to score his first goals of the season.

“Jason had a great game even before the third period started,” said Levinthal. “That was the perfect kind of game for him. He is a tough, hard-nosed kid, but he is pretty crafty. Williams is much more of a skating team, but Jason was a man amongst boys. He is a good hockey player.”

The best home unbeaten streak for Manhattanville at the old New Roc City facility was a 4-0-2 span during the middle of the 2001-2002 season. It appears that the Valiants are enjoying their new home very much.

Elmira Coming Together

After a disappointing pair of losses at St. Norbert to open the season, Elmira has pulled together and rattled off a 4-1-1 record. A sputtering offense and porous defense both appear to be improving, helping Elmira to win games.

The Soaring Eagle offense has tallied 34 goals in the last six games, and it is the youth of the team that leads on the scoreboard. Three sophomores are on top of the Elmira scoring chart, and account for all four of the team’s game winning goals. Jarrett Konkle leads the team with nine goals and five assists, totaling 14 points. Justin Siebold (8-3-11) and Jason Cassells (3-9-12) are not far behind.

“I always thought that we would generate a lot of offense with this team,” said Elmira coach Tim Ceglarski. “What we needed to do was buckle down and play good defense in front of three inexperienced goaltenders. The guys are starting to gel a little bit, but we still have a lot more to do.”

After allowing 14 goals in the St. Norbert series, the Elmira defense has clamped down and only allowed 18 in the last six games. The game last week against Lebanon Valley shows how team defense, goaltending and a stronger penalty kill have come together to spell success for Elmira.

Junior Ben Sadler made his first start of the season in net against the Flying Dutchmen, and pitched his first career shutout. Sadler benefited from a solid performance by the defensemen, and held up his end of the bargain with several spectacular saves.

“Ben has, for the last two weeks leading up to that Lebanon Valley game, worked extremely hard,” said Ceglarski. “As an upperclassman, he earned that start by working hard in practice. We felt it was a good time to get him in net and he performed very well. Our experience back on defense helped us quite a bit, and Ben made some good saves.

Killing penalties is another area where Elmira has struggled this season. Opponents like Utica and Plattsburgh seemed able to score at will with the extra skater, with a combined six goals on 11 opportunities in the two games.

Hence, the penalty kill is one area of focus in practice, and it appears to be paying off. The Soaring Eagles kept Lebanon Valley’s power play off the board, despite having 11 opportunities including four separate 5-on-3 situations spanning 2:17.

“Our penalty killing the first five or six games was atrocious,” said Ceglarski. “We spent a great deal of time working on it in practice. My assistant coach Aaron Saul has taken over that aspect of things, specializing in the penalty killing. Our guys have really bought in to what we are trying to do.”

Grudge Matches Revisited

Two nonleague grudge matches were highlighted in this space before the holiday. In a surprising twist of fate, both games ended in ties.

Going into the games on November 16, the pundits thought that the Elmira versus Plattsburgh game would be the more interesting contest. This long and storied rivalry was tied all-time at 33-33-1, but Elmira had won the last three meetings with the Cardinals.

The contest was a see-saw affair, with four lead changes and huge swings in momentum.

“It was a great college hockey game that went back and forth,” said Ceglarski. “Both teams had opportunities to win it in overtime.”

Elmira watched Plattsburgh jump out to a 2-0 lead midway through the first period. But the Soaring Eagles roared back, scoring two goals in a 23-second span to end the period tied. Elmira carried the momentum into the second period, when Pierre Rivard tallied his second goal of the game to give Elmira its first lead.

Fickle momentum shifted again just a few minutes later when Plattsburgh got back in to the lead with a pair of goals, and the swaying continued in the third period. Elmira tallied another pair of goals to retake the lead, only to have Plattsburgh answer with less than three minutes to go to tie the game 5-5.

Neither team could score in overtime, despite having several chances, and the series moved to an all-time record of 33-33-2.

The second grudge match found RIT trying to gain some redemption for a loss to Wentworth last season. But it wasn’t to be. After coasting to a victory against Johnson & Wales the previous night, RIT came out flat against the Leopards.

Wentworth took advantage of its opportunities to build a 2-0 first-period lead. The Tigers poured on the pressure over the final two periods, outshooting Wentworth 33-16 over that span. Leopard goaltender Raj Bhangoo stood on his head, and the best RIT could earn was a 2-2 tie.

Game of the Week

Manhattanville is undefeated at home this season. RIT has never lost or tied against the Valiants, a span of eight games. One of those streaks will fall this Saturday when the Tigers visit Playland Ice Casino to take on Manhattanville. The last three contests between these two teams, spanning back to last season, have been decided by two goals or less. Don’t look for this matchup to be any different.

“[Our home winning streak] doesn’t mean anything if we don’t do well this weekend,” said Levinthal. “The games that mean the most are your conference games. It really comes down to how well we execute this weekend. We can’t look by Hobart. Both games are critical to us. In the end, you just have to play well.”