Starting on a High Note
The D-III season got off to a lively start last weekend with a pair of marquee matchups. Elmira, ranked 10th in the USCHO.com preseason poll, played a home and away series with second ranked Oswego. Number three St. Norbert traveled to RIT for a pair of games.
In each case, the higher ranked teams came away 1-0-1 in two quality games, something not normally found so early in season.
After starting with some games against weaker opponents in recent years, RIT coach Wayne Wilson found this a welcome change, even though the Tigers took a tie and a loss.
“I love playing big games like this early,” Wilson said. “I think it exposes weaknesses earlier in the season and allows you to work on things.
“I think I would have rather played (the exhibition with) Humber first and get some of the kinks out before playing St. Norbert for our first game, but playing top teams in the early going can really help.”
St. Norbert coach Tim Coghlin was also happy with the trip to Rochester, especially the way his young defense responded.
“I’m very pleased,” he said. “RIT is explosive; they just keep coming at you. I thought we played very well.”
“They shut us down in the second game (a 4-2 St. Norbert win),” said Wilson. “But we learned a lot.”
Neither RIT nor Elmira has much time to make changes before another big test. The teams, which have for decades played each other late in the season, square off in just two weeks. Elmira also faces Manhattanville this weekend, as the ECAC West modifies its schedule to mirror that of the neighboring SUNYAC, which plays half of its conference schedule before Christmas.
“I think I’d rather see all the league games in the second half, but at least there’s some space between big games,” said Wilson. “Last year — done with Manhattanville by Christmas and played Elmira twice within six days in February.”
The NCHA and MIAC have also modified their interlocking schedule, which traditionally had the two leagues squaring off in the middle of the season. Now all the non-conference games will take place in November and December, allowing both leagues to play nothing but conference games down the stretch.
“I like the new arrangement,” said Wisconsin-Stout coach Terry Watkins. “It allows us to get the bugs out in early games, and then come back and really focus on conference games.”
Yes, Virginia, There Is a Division II
Division II hockey is getting more organized, especially the six ECAC teams. The Northeast 10 conference has adopted those teams, instituting a post-season tournament for them this season. Now they’ve even announced a pre-season poll.
St. Michael’s got four of the six first place votes to finish on top, with ECAC East rival St. Anselm picking up the other two to place second. Following are the four ECAC Northeast Division II schools, Southern New Hampshire, Assumption, Stonehill and Franklin Pierce.
The only other NCAA Division II school is Minnesota-Crookston, which is allowed to play in the MCHA playoffs because that league does not get an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Welcome to the Party
Speaking of the MCHA, that conference will admit a new member next season. Finlandia University, located in Northern Michigan, has been given provisional NCAA status, and was unanimously voted into the league on Monday.
“This is great for the program,” said Finlandia coach Joe Burcar. “We will be able to establish some rivalries and play for a championship. We’ll be able to set our eyes on that goal and look forward to the challenge of the MCHA.”
The Lions have been playing non-conference games against MCHA schools for the past three seasons, accumulating a 9-5-1 record, including a 9-3, 13-4 sweep of Northland last weekend.
Not all conferences have started play yet, but the ones that have are giving out weekly awards.
Player of the Week — Lawne Synder, Elmira. A three-year defenseman, Synder moved to forward this season and the results have been immediate — three goals and three assists in a two-game series with Oswego.
Goalie of the Week — Adam Levelle, Hobart. The junior netminder backstopped Hobart to a 1-0-1 weekend at the Buffalo State All Sports Invitational, earning all-tournament honors.
Rookie of the Week — Brad Harris, RIT. Harris tallied each night in a two game series against St. Norbert.
Player of the Week — Jon Daigle, Marian. Had two goals and two assists in a pair of games last weekend.
Goalie of the Week — Terry Dunbar, Marian. Posted his fifth career shutout in a 5-0 win over St. Scholastica.
Rookie of the Week — Joe Dovalina, MSOE and Kelle Larsson, Lawrence. Dovalina made 55 saves in a 5-0 loss to Wisconsin-River Falls, while Larsson had a pair of assists in a 6-4 loss to St. Scholastica
Player of the Week — Jason Deitsch, St. Norbert. The junior forward scored four goals and two assists in three games, including scoring the winning goal in both Green Knight wins as they went 2-0-1 against Marian and RIT.
Player of the Week — Jim Gilbride, Fredonia. The sophomore forward was named MVP of the Buffalo All Sports Invitational with an outstanding five goal performance in a 13-3 win over Johnson & Wales. That tied a school record.
Goalie of the Week — Jeff Phelps, Geneseo. Phelps has not allowed a goal in 80 minutes of work so far this season, including a 3-0 win over Lebanon Valley.
Rookie of the Week — Mike DeMarco, Buffalo State. The freshman had a school-record six assists in a 10-2 win over Johnson & Wales.
USCHO recently reported the lawsuit against Norwich and a former player. I did most of the research on the story, but I wasn’t there and didn’t see the incident.
You never know what’s going to happen with any lawsuit, but this one seems to be a hard sell, in my opinion. David Harbinson, a backup goalie for Wisconsin-Superior, was allegedly struck in the face with the stick of Norwich forward Jason Lumsden. Lumsden apparently inadvertently hit Harbinson with his stick as play was near the Superior bench.
Harbinson, as is the custom of backup goalies, was not wearing a helmet on the bench. Lumsden, as is the custom of hockey players, was being aggressive. I have coached for over 10 years, and I can tell you that you have to be alert at all times for pucks and sticks flying over the boards. I have narrowly avoided being cut by a player’s skates after he was upended and sent flying into the bench.
To quote many a player and coach, “That’s hockey.”
To further complicate things, Harbinson is also suing Norwich, claiming that they condoned and possibly even instilled Lumsden “reckless” behavior. He is also suing the NCAA, because, well, why not?
Stay tuned … this one may wind up on Court TV … or Judge Judy.