Neumann continued its roll from the first half of the season into the second, posting its first-ever tournament championship at the Saint Michael’s Tournament over New Year’s weekend.
The Knights started out on Friday putting a hurt on host St. Michael’s right from the opening faceoff. Neumann tallied six goals in the first 7:36 of the game, chasing two goaltenders from the Purple Knights’ net in the process.
“I wouldn’t lie if I said we got a little luck,” said Neumann coach Dennis Williams. “Every puck we shot on net went in. It was good for our guys’ confidence.”
It was inevitable for Neumann to let up on the gas a little at that point, and St. Michael’s took it to the Knights in the second period, tallying the only goal of that stanza.
But Neumann rallied in the third, throwing in another three goals on the way to a 9-2 victory.
“We played pretty hard,” said Williams. “We didn’t play well in the second period, kind of got ahead of ourselves, but battled back in the third. It was nice to come back after Christmas and get a win like that.”
This was the first tournament semifinal win in the four-year history of Neumann, but the Knights weren’t satisfied just getting to the big game, particularly since they were facing league rival Utica for the trophy.
For the second straight game, Neumann used early goal scoring to take control of the scoreboard. The Knights threw in two tallies in the first 10 plus minutes of the game, but it was Utica that was controlling play everywhere else but on the scoreboard.
“We played okay, but I definitely thought that Utica outplayed us,” said Williams. “We got great goaltending from Mike Collichio. It was a very physical game in terms of hitting and grinding.”
Sophomore Mike Collichio stopped all thirty shots that he faced during the game as Neumann eventually rolled to a 3-0 victory. However, Utica poured on the pressure in the second and third periods trying to get back into the contest. The Pioneers outshot the Knights 21-6 over the second and third periods, and posted an eye-popping 11-0 advantage in the second period alone. But Collichio came up big when he had to, as
he has done all season long.
“We got a few penalties,” said Williams. “I didn’t realize [that we had no shots on goal in the second] until after the game. They definitely outplayed us in the second [period]. It was pretty one-sided in the second because of the power plays. They came out and just physically outhit us, and out worked us. They probably deserved to come out better than with no goals in that period. We have to learn to play a full 60 minutes.”
The “firsts” continue to pile up for the players and coaches of the Neumann Knights this season as their roll continues.
A Bump in the Roll
The holiday tournaments were not so kind to the other three ECAC West teams that were in action. Each ended up splitting their contests, with two teams playing in the tournament consolation games.
In the Times-Argus Invitational, Manhattanville saw its first half roll come to a sudden stop as it couldn’t contain St. Thomas’ pesky special teams and lost 4-2 in the opening round. The Tommies tallied a shorthanded and a power play goal during a string of four straight goals in the first half of the game. That chased Valiant goaltender Andrew
Gallant, who had done stellar work the entire first half of the season. Backup Jay Chrapala was able to stonewall St. Thomas the rest of the game, but the Valiants couldn’t mount enough of a comeback to earn the win.
Manhattanville took out its frustrations on Curry in the consolation game; outshooting the Colonels 52-22, outscoring them 7-3, and nearly doubling Curry’s penalty minutes, with by a score of 83:00 to 43:00 in a very physical contest.
Elmira had trouble finding the back of the net in the first round of the Cardinal Classic in Plattsburgh. The Soaring Eagles outshot Trinity 44-21 in the game, but just couldn’t seem to be able to solve Bantam goaltender Henry Breslin on a consistent basis. Elmira’s bid for a comeback, down 4-3, was cut short midway through the third period when
Trinity scored a rare 3-on-5 shorthanded goal to put the last stake in the Soaring Eagles’ coffin.
The offense of Elmira got off to another slow start against Skidmore in the consolation game on Saturday. But finally, after almost twenty shots on goal, Mark Mazzetti tallied while on a 5-on-3 power play late in the second period and the Soaring Eagles were off to the races. They chipped in two more goals by the two minute mark of the third period and
then held on for the 3-1 victory.
In the opening round of the Saint Michael’s Tournament, Utica poured shot after shot on Johnson & Wales netminder Charlie Bacon. The Pioneers tied the game 2-2 late in the second period and then chipped in two goals midway through the third period to skate away with the 4-2 victory. But then, despite winning every facet of the game except for the scoreboard, Utica lost the championship game 3-0 to Neumann.
With the St. Michael’s Tournament trophy safely at home and two victories against Utica this season already in hand, Neumann travels up to the Utica Aud this weekend to face the same Pioneers team. But the stakes are a little different this time around.
The Pioneers are home this time around, in the friendly confines of the spacious Utica Aud, where they are expecting 1,500 to 2,000 fans to fill the seats. And these games both count in league standings, unlike the championship game of the St. Michael’s tournament.
“It should be fun,” said Williams. “We play for the competition, and these games count now. We are going to face a whole different team. [Utica coach ]Gary [Heenan] is going to have them going all week, and we will need to battle for a full sixty minutes each game. We’re not used to having a thousand or two thousand fans in the rink. We will need to step up and match their intensity from the get go, match their intensity for the first five minutes, and then take it from there.”
A sweep by either team would send reverberations throughout the league. Can Utica right the ship, get four points from Neumann, and get the second half of the league season going on the right foot?
Or will Neumann end up sweeping all four games against rival Utica, cementing its newfound status as a legitimate contender for a playoff spot this year?
I guess that is why they play the games.