This Week In The ECAC Northeast: Jan. 12, 2007

Things Are Looking Up?

Last week we focused on the crowded situation at the top of the ECAC Norhteast, and things are cramped in the basement as well, with two teams tied for tenth, and one all alone in the basement.

Looking up from the bottom is Chris Heaney, whose Framingham State club is in last place. Heaney, though, isn’t looking for any pity. “So far, obviously, it’s disappointing. With such a young team, though, it’s to be expected. We’ve faced a lot of adversity, and I like the attitude and what I see out of them each night.”

Causing that adversity has been several serious injuries. Earlier in the season, sophomore forward Neil Donahue broke a wrist, and that was followed by junior defenseman Patrick Donovan breaking a leg. Add to that a concussion suffered by sophomore forward Sean Boudreau, and then most recently, a severe laceration to the ankle of senior defenseman Ben Foley, the captain of the Rams. Foley had a skate blade rip into the ankle and cut him down to where there was bone, and he will miss two weeks.

With the loss of Colby, that means Framingham State will not have a senior in the line-up. When asked to single out which one of the younger players is standing out, Heaney thought for an answer. “It’s hard to pick. Joe Mulvey is really turning it on. On any given night, we’re playing four to five freshmen defenseman. We also have two freshman goalies, but goaltending’s not the issue. Even though we’re out-shot every game, it’s been very good.”

Freshman goalie Andy Joyce, out of Marlboro (Mass.) High School, has seen the bulk of the action, starting in eight games. Sophomore Matthew Truss has started five games, with junior Patrick Sampson and freshman Patrick Smith each appearing in a game.

With all but one of their remaining ten games against conference opponents, Heaney knows that a few quick wins can put them into the post-season hunt. “Every game’s a playoff game for us now. We’ve backed ourselves into a corner, and we have to come out fighting.”

For Heaney, who played hockey himself at Norwich University, he is seeing some of his initiatives taking shape that he tried to instill when taking over prior to last season. “Last year we tried to change the culture of the team into a competitive team. Set aside wins and losses, we’ve been very successful in that regard. There’s been no finger pointing going on.”

Chris Bernard at Western New England College is optimistic when he speaks about his team’s play in the first half. “I think we made a lot of positive strides as a program. We had a consistent team effort night in and night out. We’ve invested in a ‘team first’ philosophy. We’ve challenged ourselves to be attentive to detail.”

One luxury that Bernard hasn’t had is the consistency of the same line-up twice in a row, but he still sees a positive come out of that. “Everyone’s contributed. Phil Lamy’s got seventeen points, we’ve gotten great goaltending from both guys. Matt Haddock gets help from the leadership around him.” Haddock is a freshman forward out of Hillard, OH, and is second in the team in scoring, with totals of 6G-4A-10PTS. in twelve games. He trails the sophomore left winger Lamy, who has totals of 7G-10A-17PTS. in a dozen games.

When asked to look ahead to the second half, Berard offered these thoughts, “We have a pretty challenging schedule. The majority of our league contests are in the second half. We just have to judge ourselves according to our own team criteria.”

Despite having only two points in the conference standings, WNEC can put themselves right into the middle of the pack with even a pair of wins. One game that looms large on the horizon is against UMass Dartmouth on January 13th, but Bernard is trying to treat that like any other scheduled conference contest. “We have a lot of respect for everybody in our league. There’s a lot of parity. We view it as an opportunity to show the progress we’ve made, but we don’t put too much emphasis on the particular opponent.”

At Suffolk University, coach Chris Glionna spoke about where his program is, and where it’s headed. “The first half of the schedule, we showed a lot of growth. We really only played one senior. We lost six games by a score of 4-3, which is pretty telling of how our season’s been. We were in every game.”

The lone senior on the squad has been captain John Delaney out of Archbishop Willams HS. Senior defenseman Carl Ellis out of Gloucester, MA, has been out with mononucleosis.

Glionna is very happy with forwards John Ricchio and Dan Pencinger. Rocchio, a sophomore, is currently ranked number 16 in the nation for Division 3 scoring, with 1.92 points per game in twelve games, off of 6G-17A-23PTS. Pencinger is ranked number 22 nationally, with 1.62 points per game, with 7G-14A-21PTS. in thirteen games.

One player who is back after sitting out the first semester is sophomore forward Alex Olson, and Glionna seems happy to see him out on the ice. “He’s the team leader in the locker room, and he had an instant impact. He had ten shots on goal in one of the Codfish bowl games.” Olson also scored three of Suffolk’s five goals in the tournament, and also added an assist.

Defensively, Glionna is pleased with the way freshman Nick Davis has performed, along with Joe Drago. Davis plays a lot of minutes, and also has some offense on his resume, already providing three power plays goals. Glionna feels the tandem is “getting better every day.” Sophomore defenseman Mitch Sabo has also put in three power play goals, and he has 5G-4A-9PTS. in thirteen games.

In looking ahead to the second half, a non-conference game against Tufts on Tuesday, Jan. 16 jumps out at Glionna. “It’s a ‘NESCAC’ team, and we have a local rivalry with them.” the third year coach said, “We always get up for that one. Then we play the real heavyweights in our league.”

When told that despite having only two points right now still means they’re only a couple of wins from playoff contention, Glionna responded. “We’re not out of the playoffs, but we have to start beating teams we’re supposed to beat. There have been some games that end, and we have fifty shots on goal, and lost. We also need to be more consistent between the pipes.”