This Week In The ECAC West: Nov. 10, 2006

Glass Palace

After years of fans and players freezing from the cold wind blowing off of Seneca Lake, the enclosure of the Geneva Recreation Center, home of the Hobart Statesmen, is actually going to happen.

The final piece of funding fell in to place on Nov. 1 when a $350,000 grant from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation was announced. That grant will be combined with other grants from New York State and the U.S. Congress to fund enclosing the rink with insulated glass and installation of a new dehumidification system.

The insulated glass will be used to enclose the roof peaks on each end of the rink, as well as the currently open east wall that faces nearby Seneca Lake. The glass is being donated by Guardian Industries Corp., which has a facility located in Geneva and is owned by Bill Davidson, who also owns the Tampa Bay Lightning NHL team.

The project to enclose the rink was led by local Geneva businessman Bernie Lynch, with extensive help from Hobart coach Mark Taylor, Geneva Mayor Don Cass, and assistance from local, state and federal representatives.

“[The rink] isn’t quite where we need to be,” said Lynch. “I see it as a youth hockey parent, and as a downtown businessman who owns a furniture store that has been in the family for 101 years, I feel we can do better. College hockey can be a real entertainment option in a town like this. As a hockey professional, Coach Taylor reached out to the business community and they have responded.”

Several efforts have been made over the years to either enclose the Geneva Recreation Center or build a new rink for the Hobart team. But for various reasons, each failed to deliver. With the approval of the funding, and the donation of the materials, it appears that everything is lined up to finally make it happen.

“There were a number of reasons in the past why the rink could not be enclosed,” said Lynch. “One was the initial funding came from an outdoor parks grant. Those restrictions were waived just before Geneva embarked on the last phase of the rink improvements. That phase worked on the mechanicals and Hobart’s varsity house. This is now the next logical step.”

Lynch was also very thankful of the efforts of Taylor in helping the project get to the point of fruition.

“Mark is a modest man, but Coach Taylor was a key player in this,” said Lynch. “He has experience with rinks and is skilled in the construction trades. As I progressed along with the funding things, he was answering phone calls for the construction project. He deserves a lot of credit.”

Construction is expected to begin next spring and be completed before the commencement of hockey season next year.

So, if you want to experience the game we all love in the last remaining outdoor rink in college hockey, be sure to make plans to attend a contest this season at the Geneva Recreation Center. In some ways, I might actually miss nearly freezing to death while enjoying a Hobart hockey game in the middle of January.

Heck of a Start

This past weekend was a heck of a start to league play. If it was any indication of the excitement to come, this season should turn out to be a whopper for both the fans and the teams.

Two of the three games on Friday were decided in overtime, and remarkably both were won by a freshman on the first shot on goal taken in the extra stanza.

Matt Fitzgibbons was the hero for Utica scoring 3:11 into overtime to raise the Pioneers over Hobart, 3-2. As a matter of fact, Fitzgibbons tallied the hat trick, scoring all three Utica goals in the game. Not bad for a freshman in his first league contest.

“We were fortunate,” said Utica coach Gary Heenan. “Hobart outplayed us most of the game because we were sloppy. We got a fortunate bounce in OT. We have seen a freshman step up for us in every game so far this year, and Matt did it against Hobart.”

Elmira and Manhattanville also went to overtime on Friday. It looked like the Valiants had the game in hand, leading 3-1 with under five minutes to go in the third period when the sluggish Elmira offense suddenly came to life. The Soaring Eagles tallied two goals in under two minutes to send the game to the extra stanza. But Manhattanville squished the Elmira hopes just 41 seconds in to overtime when freshman Matt Piegza scored to give the Valiants the 4-3 victory.

“We played well for the last six or seven minutes of the game,” said Elmira coach Tim Ceglarski. “Otherwise, we played selfish hockey.”

Saturday’s games weren’t quite as exciting, but were still good games. With the sweeps by Manhattanville, Neumann, and Utica, the current league standings are split in to the “haves” and the “have nots”.

A Statistical Anomaly?

Long time fans of the ECAC West have watched Neumann go from a struggling doormat of a team to at least being competitive over the past two seasons. The turnaround has been remarkably quick, in many respects.

But now we are seeing signs that the Knights are serious about becoming contenders. Neumann put a good old-fashioned thumping on Lebanon Valley last weekend, sweeping the two game series by a total score of 20-5.

Naturally, as a result of the big weekend on the scoreboard, it might not be all that surprising to find that a Knight leads almost every individual offensive statistical category. Sophomore Kyle Casey leads the league in points (17), goals (9), power play points (12), and power play goals (8) through only six games. The Neumann power play is clicking along at a superb 30.3%, and the top six scorers in the league right now all wear the Neumann sweater.

While some may scoff at these numbers as a statistical aberration caused by the LVC blowouts, a closer look at the numbers may indicate that Neumann has turned the offensive corner.

In the first four games of the season against the like of Geneseo and Potsdam, Neumann tallied twenty one goals, which would still place it second currently in the league for total goals scored. The Knights power play converted at a strong 27.7% during that same stretch of games, scoring 13 times in 47 opportunities.

The season is still early, of course, but it seems like it will be fun to watch the Neumann offense as the year progresses.

Game of the Week

It isn’t desperation time yet, but it might be getting close for Hobart and Elmira. Each will be looking for its first league win when they meet this Saturday.

With a league as competitive as the ECAC West, starting the season out 0-3 makes the climb to the regular season title even more difficult.