There have been some great success stories in the recent past, with coaches taking new programs, or programs at rock bottom, to near the top in D-III. Certainly among them are three from the ECAC West: Mark Taylor at Hobart, Keith Levinthal at Manhattanville, and Gary Heenan at Utica, and in the ECAC Northeast: Rob Davies at Curry and the deposed Bill Bowes at Wentworth.
Another of those is Brian Hills, who has done a terrific at Geneseo. Hills, now in his fourth season behind the Ice Knights bench, has taken a team that in his first season played, in his words, about as well as a “bad beer league team” and developed them into one of the top programs at D-III.
A couple of seasons ago, you could have heard a pin drop during a Geneseo game at the Ira S. Wilson Arena. Saturday night, 1722 raucous fans from both schools saw a thrilling hockey game, with RIT scoring the game-winning goal with only 54 seconds left. It has been over a decade since the Knights have beaten the Tigers, and two years in a row, they played well enough to have done so.
Hills has also seen major improvements to his facility. They’ve upgraded the dressing room, added a new ceiling and new ventilating systems to the arena, and
Unless the teams meet in the NCAA post-season, which is not beyond the realm of possibility, they might only meet once more, and perhaps never again at the Ira, if sources are correct about RIT’s departure from D-I.
Geneseo is well positioned at the SUNYAC break, just four points behind Fredonia and tied with Oswego for second place. Both of those teams visit Geneseo in the second half of the season, while the only big road trip for the Ice Knights is to Potsdam and Plattsburgh, two teams they have already beaten in conference.
Hobart set a school record unbeaten streak at eight games with its 3-1 win over Wesleyan on Friday night, but saw that broken in a 5-3 loss to Oswego on Saturday.
Mark Taylor, whose Hobart Statesmen have the bulls-eye on their back as defending ECAC West champs, should have been coach of the year last year. (Not that Bill Beaney at Middlebury didn’t also deserve it, but he’s probably running out of room for those plaques on his wall.)
Taylor, along with Heenan and Levinthal, have turned the ECAC West from what was not much of a conference, to one that I would rank with the best in D-III.
Chris Potter is on his way at Wesleyan. His young team, mostly freshmen and sophomores, made a good effort against Hobart. A couple more recruiting classes and some additional maturation will have them right in the NESCAC mix, and with a couple of big conference wins already, they could be in the hunt this year.
Not to keep harping on points of emphasis and officiating … Okay, I guess I am.
First of all, I don’t, and I don’t think anybody possibly could, see a statistically significant number of games to draw any conclusions. But, I did see two D-III games this weekend, with officiating crews I had not seen this year.
From the small sample I saw, I’m wondering if the ease up in calls that many suspected has happened. Early in the season, almost any kind of stick work was getting called. This weekend, I saw sticks up around the waist tugging at jerseys, big hits from behind, guys getting knocked over away from the puck — all things that would have been tolerated last year and called this year — not being called at all.
Was what I was seeing a trend or an anomaly? There’s no way for me to know. Even if I saw four games a week, it would only be within the range I’d be willing to drive, and it would only amount to about five percent of the games played that week.
How about Tony Ciro at Augsburg? The junior goalie picked up two shutouts over Hamline, 4-0 and 9-0, making 48 saves in two games, including 16 in the first period Saturday night. The wins move the Auggies into a three-way tie for second with Bethel and St. Thomas, two points behind St. John’s.
Yen-I Chen picked up Middlebury’s first shutout, a 5-0 win over Amherst, on Saturday. Sharing a goose egg were Jay Chrapala and Paul Reimer at Manhattanville in a 9-0 shellacking of Salve Regina.
Looking at Manhattanville’s schedule, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the Valiants could have 20 wins this year. But if key wins don’t come against Utica, Hobart, Elmira and RIT, they will have trouble come NCAA time, as they will have a poor strength of schedule index because of their weak non-league schedule.
I was shocked to hear of the firing of longtime Canisius coach Brian Cavanaugh last Friday. I met Brian probably 20 years ago when Canisius played in the ECAC West, and have seen him once or twice a year, usually at the Frozen Four, since Canisius left the ECAC West.
Let me just wish the best to Brian and his family. Brian is a consummate competitor, coach, disciplinarian, and gentleman.
I’m going to withhold judgment on the situation until I know more for certain, but some of the rumors flying about are troubling, and some statements made publicly in the media are contradicted by other information from sources speaking to USCHO.
There are some great holiday tournaments coming up: the Plattsburgh Cardinal Classic, with Utica, Wesleyan, and Conn. College heading up north; Norwich’s Times-Argus, with Manhattanville, Lake Forest, and Elmira; the Codfish Bowl, with St. Mike’s, Babson, Fitchburg State, and UMass-Boston; the Salem State Tournament, with Curry, Bowdoin, and Worcester State; and the Middlebury Holiday Classic, featuring Trinity, Skidmore, and the U.S. Under-18 National Development Team.
Our D-III columnists will wrap up the first half of the season and preview those holiday tournaments this week. This column and theirs will return after the new year.