This Week in the ECAC West: Jan. 13, 2005

Clubbing It

While not on the original schedule, Neumann did get in a bit of a scrimmage over the long holiday break. About a month ago, coach Dennis Williams was contacted by the AHCA Selects team to see if they could scrimmage together.

The AHCA Selects is an all-star team of top players from the nation’s club teams, put together every year to compete in a tournament in Europe. Usually, the team practices once or twice and then heads overseas for the games during the January break.

This year, the Selects coaches were looking to get a little more practice before leaving, and since Neumann is only a two hour drive from the Selects home in Maryland, it seemed like a natural fit.

Originally, the coaches had intended to only play two twenty minute periods, and then work on some power play drills. However, the game was tied 3-3 at the end of the second period, and the guys were having so much fun that the coaches decided to continue play in to an overtime period.

Off and on during the years, discussions arise periodically comparing play between the lower reaches of division III and the upper realms of AHCA club teams. This scrimmage gives a rare look at how player skill levels might compare.

“I would put them in the middle tier of division III teams,” said Williams. “They competed hard and had good depth. They dressed 23 skaters, and we had a short lineup, so it wore us out in the last period. It was their third practice, so it was good for them. I think they would battle with the bottom third of division III teams.”

While the scrimmage was a bit of fun for Williams and his team over the holiday, the rest of it was very stressful. Neumann suspended several players in mid-November for violation of school rules, and those players are still not playing. The team is awaiting decisions from both the NCAA and the school on the situation, so the wait could be a while.

Over the holiday, Williams and his assistant coach traveled across both Canada and the US looking for replacements. Both were on the road for three straight weeks, including being away from home for the holidays, scouring leagues around the two countries.

They dug up three forwards and one defenseman to join the Knights. Williams had contact with these players early last semester, and made a special effort to ensure that they were in school for the second semester to help out.

The late additions still leave the team bench short, but at least it is a little more manpower than they had.

“The stressful part of the holiday was that if we didn’t bring in these four players, we might not have a team right now,” said Williams.

He also worked on recruiting for next season over the holidays, and is looking to bring in eight to nine forwards and one defenseman. Perhaps, in a way, this situation is actually a blessing for Williams, as it speeds up the process of rebuilding the team around players that he has recruited.

Is it a Slump?

It is hard to call RIT’s recent struggles to win games a slump, but it certainly is noteworthy. With losses to the US U-18 NDPT, Plattsburgh, and Fredonia, and still counting, people are starting to take notice.

The last time RIT experienced a string of three straight losses was from March 8, 1997 to March 15, 1997. The Tigers lost to Elmira in the championship game of the ECAC West playoffs, and then followed up by being swept by Middlebury in two games in the NCAA Quarterfinals. Those NCAA games were played at Middlebury, instead of RIT, as a result of what the NCAA later admitted was a mistake in seeding.

What makes the current streak so notable is that the three straight losses occurred at home on the Tigers’ Ritter Arena.

Only two of the current losses have been to NCAA teams. The last time RIT lost two consecutive NCAA home games was in 1993. On January 30th of that year, the Tigers lost to Oswego and then six days layer were also beaten by Brockport.

One would have to look way back to 1987 in the record books to find the last time the Tigers have lost three consecutive home games of any kind. Bowdoin swept RIT during a two game set on the weekend of January 16 and 17. And the Tigers continued the tumble against Hamilton the following Friday.

Only once has RIT ever lost four consecutive games all played on home ice, and that was in the later half of January in 1970.

The big question looming over the team now, is will they match that feat Friday against Oswego?

Oh, The Humanity

The Hockey Humanitarian Award has grown in to one of the most prestigious awards given in collegiate hockey. It symbolizes all that is good about our sport. The candidates must exhibit a strong commitment to community, academics, and sportsmanship, and are glowing examples of the value of athletics.

The award process begins with a list of 15 nominees, gleaned from applications received from schools throughout all levels of NCAA sanctioned hockey. Nominees are selected from both men’s and women’s teams, in all divisions.

Historically, Division III athletes have made a big impact on this stage. In the nine year history of the award, two Division III athletes have been honored.

Kristine Pierce (RIT) won the award in the 1998-99 season. And Rocky Reeves (Buffalo State) was honored in 2001-02.

Historically, almost every year both men’s and women’s division III players are well represented in the list of 15 nominees.

Every year with the exception of this year, that is. The list of nominees was released January 9th, and it contained only division I players this year.

If the dearth of Division III nominees this season is due to coaches and SID’s failure to nominate their players, then shame on them. Having a Humanitarian Award nominee is great publicity for the school, the team, and recognition for the student.

I am certain that just about every school has at least one player who would make an outstanding candidate for the Humanitarian Award. It is an injustice to the Division III athletes not to have any included in this year’s list of nominees.

A Time to be Humble

I have to admit it. I can’t tell you how much pain writing this is causing me, but I have to admit it. After all, realization of a problem is half the battle, isn’t it?

The SUNYAC is dominating the ECAC West this season.

There, I said it, even though I would rather have swallowed a whole bottle of castor oil instead.

For only the second time in the eight years that I have been covering the ECAC West, the SUNYAC has a winning record versus the ECAC West late in a season. Since the SUNYAC left the ECAC West, they have only once ended the season with a winning record against their former league-mates. And then it was just barely with a record of 17-18-1 in the 1999-2000 season.

There have been years when the ECAC West has completely dominated SUNYAC teams, like 1995-96 with a record of 34-14-3.

But barring a Herculean comeback in the remaining sixteen inter-conference games, it appears that the SUNYAC will truly trounce the ECAC West this year. As of games completed on Tuesday, the ECAC West is on the short end of a 10-19-5 record with the SUNYAC this season.

A realist would declare that it was inevitable, but I am still ashamed to see it occur. My arch-nemesis Russell Jaslow will never let me hear the end of it.