The schedule for ECAC West teams is naturally split into three distinct sections. First are the games from the start of the season up to the Christmas holiday. The second season begins with the New Year and carries through to the end of the regular season. The third season is what every team is playing for: the league and NCAA playoffs.
With the holidays now behind us, the first season is completed. As the teams opened the second season this past weekend, let’s look back at some of the surprises of the first season.
While Manhattanville has been rapidly building a strong program for the past three years, it is a surprise to find the Valiants at the top of the standings in the ECAC West halfway through the season.
Manhattanville ended the first semester on a huge high by soundly defeating RIT. The Valiants had come close to beating RIT early last season, and outplayed the Tigers but lost in their first meeting this year. But the monkey finally was thrown off of Manhattanville’s back on December 7 in what might be the Valiants’ biggest win to date.
“Beating Hobart and RIT in the same weekend was the biggest weekend in the history of our program,” said Manhattanville coach Keith Levinthal.
Hustle and defense have been the keys to success. The Valiants are consistently winning the races to loose pucks, and outhustling opponents for a full 60 minutes each game.
Manhattanville’s defense has been solid the entire first semester. In all but two games this season, the Valiants’ defense has limited its opponent to three goals or fewer. The stingy defense leads the ECAC West in goals against, and is ranked tenth in the nation, allowing only 2.36 goals per game.
Even though RIT completed the first season with an 8-1-1 record, something most teams would be ecstatic about, the Tigers struggled through most of those games, playing with little desire.
“I wasn’t real happy with how we were competing for most of the first half,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “We needed to compete harder than we were competing. We have a lot more people who need to step up and be leaders, and not rely on the older players.”
The Tiger whom most noted was All-American goaltender Tyler Euverman. He seemed to be fighting every shot, not playing like the rock-solid netminder that most RIT fans take for granted.
“Right before the break, I wasn’t seeing the puck very well,” said Euverman. “But with the start of the second half of the season, I knew that I needed to put my foot down.”
Elmira started the season with many question marks on defense and in goaltending. An extremely young corps of players took some lumps losing two opening contests to St. Norbert. But they started to come together as the first season progressed.
A sweep of league foe Utica, and a big tie against arch-nemesis Plattsburgh, were important stepping stones. It appears that the Soaring Eagles have worked the kinks out and are ready to make some noise in the second half of the season.
During the holidays, the Hockey Humanitarian Award Foundation announced the 2003 nominees for this prestigious award. For the first time ever, a student-athlete was nominated from the ECAC West conference.
Bryan Isola, a senior assistant captain from Neumann, was among the list of nominees. Isola hails from Kennett Square, Pa., just a few miles west of the Neumann campus.
The stay-at-home defenseman has contributed significantly to the Neumann team as it made its transition into the ECAC West.
“He’s quite a young man,” said Neumann coach Nick Russo. “The program is starting to turn the corner, and it is due to him. You’ve seen the positive attitude on our bench and in the locker room, and I attribute that attitude in there particularly to Bryan Isola.”
The Hockey Humanitarian Award is about much more than athletic performance on the ice. As described by the Foundation, “We want to acknowledge the accomplishments of personal character, scholarship, and the giving of oneself off the ice to the larger community as well.”
Academically, he has excelled earning a 3.67 GPA majoring in Sports Management, and has been named to the Dean’s List five of his six semesters at Neumann.
Isola freely gives his time and talent back to the community, both on campus and off. He has been a tutor with the school’s Academic Resource Center since he was a freshman.
Last season, the hockey team held a “Knights Fight Illiteracy” book drive to benefit local Hispanic charities. Isola single-handedly collected over 500 books for the drive. He is also a leader in “Mission and Ministry,” an organization at Catholic-based Neumann that organizes activities like food drives to benefit local charities. Isola has also helped to organize volunteers to assist with Neumann’s annual “Senior Citizen Dinner Dance” each of his year’s at the college.
“Bryan’s list of helping out is never-ending,” said Russo.
In addition to his work with campus organizations whose effects are felt outside the school’s community, Isola also coaches youth hockey at a local ice rink.
“He’s put up with all this nonsense with our team for four years, and has never lost his composure, which in and of itself is pretty humanitarian.” said Russo.
Around the Rinks
This week marks the beginning of virtual tour of the ice rinks around the ECAC West. Each of the next six weeks, we will visit one of the rinks, tour the facility, and grade it in eight different criteria.
The grading is subjective, of course, being composed of my opinion of how each rink measures up. I would like to thank the coaches of the ECAC West, who have given me a behind-the-scenes tour of each of the facilities. Send me an email, and let me know your thoughts about the rinks in the ECAC West.
The grades for the eight criteria are then averaged to arrive at an overall score, with 100% being the perfect rink. The rinks will be presented from worst to first, so let’s start with Hobart.
Geneva Recreation Center – home of the Hobart Statesmen
Home Locker Room: B
Visiting Locker Room: C
Spectator Seating: F
Game Atmosphere: C
Press Facilities: D
Game Facilities: B
Rink Aesthetics: D
Overall Grade: 72.5% (C-)
Two years ago, the city of Geneva partnered with Hobart to make extensive improvements to the Geneva Recreation Center. A completely new refrigeration system, combined with new boards and glass, were installed. Two new locker rooms were built for the visiting team to use.
A new Varsity House was constructed for the Statesmen, containing a coach’s office, trainer’s room, equipment room, a room for players to securely keep personal effects, as well as a spacious home locker room.
These were all marked improvements for the rink and playing facilities. However, the building still suffered from one fundamental defect: it is missing two walls. This fact alone significantly drags down the scores for the rink.
The spectators are the ones who really suffer from the outdoor environs of the rink. The wall behind the spectator seating is completely missing, although mesh curtains have been installed to cut down on some of the wind. If you are a spectator, don’t even think about sitting down on those aluminum bleachers during a game. During the frigid days of January and February, with icy winds blowing in off Seneca Lake, fans and players alike can find themselves battling the elements more than the competition on the ice.
The game atmosphere is improving at Hobart. The stands are routinely filled, with a majority of the crowd being students. This gives the games a raucous atmosphere at times, although some of the taunts emanating from the stands are not necessarily family-oriented.
Food at the indoor concession stand is good. The fan favorites are hot chocolate and coffee as the spectators try to warm up in between periods. New this year is the local youth hockey organization selling chowder (seafood chowder at the game I attended) that is quite good and really warms the innards.
The press facilities are nothing more than scaffolding made of plywood and 2×4’s elevated above one corner of the rink. It is at least shielded from the wind and is better than nothing, but not by much.
Overall, the Geneva Recreation Center gets a solid C-. Hobart has made significant improvements to the facility over the last two years and for that, they should be applauded. However, until they enclose the last two walls of the rink, further improvements are limited. The main roadblock is the town of Geneva, which utilizes the facility as an open-air farmer’s market in the summer.
Game of the Week
It’s the Clash of the Coaches this week, as Elmira heads up to the North Country to take on Potsdam. Current Elmira coach Tim Ceglarski will take on his former boss, Potsdam’s Glenn Thomaris, who coached Elmira for 14 seasons. Thomaris recruited the seniors on the Elmira team and this is the first meeting with Ceglarski and Thomaris on opposite benches.