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

Starting to Roll?

Elmira’s storied second half run last season is well known. With the Soaring Eagles underachieving again at the start of this season, everyone has been watching to see if they can put another run together. Perhaps, just perhaps, Elmira showed a little bit of that magical spark over the last couple of weeks.

The Soaring Eagles came back from the holiday break in strong fashion playing in the inaugural Oswego tournament. Elmira drew St. Thomas in the first round and had to shake off the rust in the first ten minutes of the game as the Tommies scored two goals in the first four minutes of the game. After that, it was all Soaring Eagles, who romped to a 7-3 win.

The scoreboard may have read 4-1 Oswego at the end of the championship game, but Elmira played well — really well — and that is what the Soaring Eagles really needed to start the new year.

“With the exception of the first ten minutes of the St. Thomas game, it is probably the best five periods of hockey we have played all year,” said Elmira coach Tim Ceglarski. “Even the Oswego game may have been the best game we have played in two years. We really played well, just couldn’t score.”

“The two goals [that Oswego got late in the third period] were two mistakes in the neutral zone. They have very good offensive players that capitalized on both. But the first seven or eight minutes of the period, we controlled play.”

Stringing together five solid periods of hockey is the positive that coach Ceglarski took out of the weekend, and Elmira carried that into last weekend’s pair of contests against league foe Lebanon Valley. But despite the 8-4 and 8-2 final scores, the Soaring Eagles reverted back to their old habits somewhat.

“We were very encouraged coming out of the Oswego tournament,” said Celgarski. “It gave us a little momentum based on how we played up at Oswego. We were very sloppy this past weekend, but it was good to get a bunch of goals because we have been struggling to score goals all year long.”

With eight of its last ten games against nationally-ranked opponents, and all eight of those being league games, Elmira needs to play more like the team from the Oswego tournament than the “sloppy” team of last weekend down the stretch.

Elmira lost two players over the holidays as Jason Fransky and Noel Lortie both left school. However, two other players have returned from long-term injuries, Chris Asplund and Matthew Blake, to fill in the void.

Thumping and Thumped

Manhattanville experienced two extremes last weekend. First they put a beat-down on Plymouth State Friday night by a score of 12-2 in a game where the goal differential could have been even higher. Then the Valiants themselves got schooled by a very talented US Under 18 team 7-3, again in a game that could have gotten out of hand going the other way.

The most remarkable sequence of the Plymouth State game came at the mid-point of the second period when the Valiants scored five goals in a 2:57 span. That certainly is a school record, and could be an NCAA record if they kept those kinds of stats.

“The goals were going quick,” said Manhattanville coach Keith Levinthal. “It didn’t seem like it was that quick during the game.”

With his team up 9-0 at that point, coach Levinthal called off the dogs.

“After that stretch of five goals, we shut things down and stopped forechecking,” said Levinthal. “I don’t think our forecheckers crossed the blue line again. They gave us a tremendous amount of respect, perhaps too much, and it led to that happening.”

The tables were turned the next night when Manhattanville took on the US Under-18 team in an exhibition game. Made up of the best 17-year-olds in the country, the US Under-18 team is a highly skilled and cohesive team.

The Valiants were able to keep up with the US Under-18 team for the first half of the game, trading a pair of goals each, but two goals for the Under-18 team midway through the second period got them off to the races.

“We haven’t trailed too often and played a team like that either,” said Levinthal. “They are the best team that we have played. In a big game situation, we played like a young team, made a lot of bad decisions and dumb step-ups. They move the puck so well that they made us look like fools at different parts of the game. The game could have easily gotten out of control against us. It just had that feel at a couple of points.”

The Under-18 team threw in three more goals in the third period to win 7-3, giving Manhattanville its first taste of on-ice adversity this season.

“It’s quite obvious we have a lot of work to do if we expect to compete with the best teams in the country and with all due respect there are at least a few teams that seem to be more ready to make a run at a championship right now,” said Levinthal. “Nevertheless, I’m happy for my guys as their work ethic has been excellent all year. We flat out got beat [against the Under-18 team] but played hard to the end.”

The Under-18 game was played in the Terry Connors Rink in Stamford, Connecticut. Manhattanville has reached across the nearby state border several times to work with various charities and youth organizations and this game was an extension of that outreach.

“We would like to play a game or two in Connecticut every year,” said Levinthal. “We had a pretty nice crowd there. It is a nice rink but is a little too far to be our home. We do a lot of community service in Connecticut and get involved in a lot of youth hockey there. The youth hockey associations gave us a good effort to put the game on, with the city of Stamford and the rink.”

The Valiants also added one player over the holidays, Dillon Henningson, whose recruiting process didn’t complete in time to join the team in the fall.

Game of the Week

It is slim pickings for Game of the Week this time around as the ECAC West wraps up the crossover schedule with the SUNYAC. While the games between Geneseo and Elmira have been interesting matchups over the last couple of years, the nod this week has to go to the pair of games with Potsdam at Manhattanville.

The last meeting between these two teams, on the very same weekend last year, saw Potsdam rack up three power play goals on seven opportunities, and give Manhattanville a real scare. That has been on the Valiants mind all week as they get ready for the Bears coming to town.

“Potsdam is a very dangerous team,” said Levinthal. “Their power play is very good and made us pay last year in one of the games. We are going to have to come ready to play because they can score goals. It will be a good weekend for us to get ready for league play again.”