This Week In The ECAC West: Nov. 2, 2006

Good Start, Bad Start

Elmira and Neumann have gotten their seasons off to polar opposite starts, both against SUNYAC opponents. Neumann began by ripping off three convincing wins to start the season before finally dropping a game against Geneseo this past Saturday.

The first pair of victories came at the expense of a seemingly hapless Potsdam team two weekends ago by scores of 6-2 and 6-3. The Knights played well in the first game of the weekend, but came out a little less hungry on Saturday and almost paid the price for it.

“We didn’t really play all that well [on Saturday],” said Neumann coach Dennis Williams. “After getting the win on Friday, we were a little too satisfied and came out flat. I don’t think we finished a check the whole night long.”

Outworking opponents is what coach Williams wants to be the hallmark of this team; it showed last Friday night when the Neumann power play went five for thirteen to thump Geneseo 6-2. The positive taken out of this game was five different Knights getting on the scorecard, compared to only five players scoring all twelve of the goals in both games against Potsdam the week before.

“It is good to spread the wealth around and have more guys getting confidence,” said Williams.

Even though Neumann lost to Geneseo on Saturday, a 3-1 start for the Knights is nothing to sneeze at.

“I’d take it if someone told me [we’d start 3-1] before the season,” said Williams. “But we are still young, still learning, and need to play a full sixty minutes.”

Meanwhile, Elmira dropped two games to Oswego to open the season. The first game of the home-and-home series last weekend was in front of a boisterous 2,000 fans in the “Thunderdomes.” Both teams played a tight defensive game, exchanging goals in a thirty-three second span in the second period to get things going. But Elmira, in its first game of the season, ran out of gas in the third period against an Oswego team playing its third game of the season, and the Soaring Eagles ended up on the losing end of a 2-1 score.

“I thought we played pretty well for the first period,” said Elmira coach Tim Ceglarski. “But for the second and third periods, I thought our legs and game shape might not have been where it needed to be for the first game of the year. Both goalies played pretty well”

Unfortunately for the Soaring Eagles, the wheels came off the bus quickly on the larger ice surface in Oswego on Saturday, with Elmira eventually losing 5-2.

“We played one of the poorest games that we have played in the ten years since I have been here,” said Ceglarski. “[Oswego] moved the puck very well, and we were chasing our tail around the ice most of the game. It clearly showed that we have some work to do.”

Two different teams, two different stories entering the season, with two different sets of early results. The only thing that both Elmira and Neumann have in common so far is that neither coach is satisfied with how his team is playing.

Transferring Around

With the large turnover in rosters this season, an interesting occurrence to note is the number of transfers appearing on various teams. Neumann added two players this season, one each from Quinnipiac and Oswego. Lebanon Valley was joined by a player from St. Scholastica late last season. And other teams were contacted by various players about transferring.

With the success it has had over the last several season, Manhattanville is a natural draw for players looking for a change. Players transfer to another school and team for many reasons, but most are looking for a fresh start of some kind. For the Valiants, two new players on this year’s roster are perhaps looking for more than most.

Junior brothers Mike and Matt Ruberto were dismissed with two other players from Canisius College on Dec. 2, 2005 for violating team rules. While privacy regulations restrict public disclosure of the actual violation, speculation ran rampant at the time.

Over the summer, the players approached Manhattanville coach Keith Levinthal in their search for a new home.

“They came looking for us,” said Levinthal. “We didn’t even know anything about them until they came to us. When kids have an issue someplace, the amount of inquiries we get is unbelievable.”

As with most programs presented with this kind of situation, the Manhattanville staff did some research, talking to many sources throughout the hockey community to try to determine if the players would be a good fit.

“We did our research and felt like they were OK to give them a chance,” said Levinthal. “They said ‘Hey, we made a mistake and want a second chance.’ We went through it and said we would give them that chance. Everybody deserves to get one second chance. From what I have seen so far this season, they have been nothing but really nice kids.”

Time will tell if Manhattanville made the right decision, and if the players take advantage of their second chance.

Right Into the Fire

Despite it only being the third week of the season, teams jump right into league play this weekend. One of the side effects of playing each team three times in league play is that teams are put to the test early. And each team is feeling the pressure to succeed and avoid digging themselves a big hole that they will struggle to get out of later in the season.

“Playing a 25 game schedule, every game is so important for the NCAAs at the end of the year, especially when we don’t have an automatic bid,” said Ceglarski. “You have to approach each game as if it is the most important game on the schedule. Clearly, the teams within our league are ranked teams. I would rather play these kinds of games all year long than against teams that might not have as much importance to our league.”

With no clear favorite this year, every team will be scrambling to take advantage of whatever opportunities might present themselves this weekend.

“It is going to be whether a team is prepared or not,” said Williams. “You can catch teams off guard, or maybe haven’t practiced as much. You have to hope you get the bounces more than anything.”

At first glance Neumann appears to be the most likely to come out of this weekend unscathed as they play a pair against Lebanon Valley. Meanwhile, the other four teams are playing a round robin affair in central New York with Elmira, Hobart, and Utica all hosting games at some point during the weekend.