This Week in the ECAC Northeast

Penman Looking to Write Up Stellar Season

When heading into the holiday break last year, Southern New Hampshire University had six wins and four losses. This year, the Penmen celebrated Christmas sitting atop the Northeast 10 with a record of 6-1-1, and as 2007 turned into 2008, they were 7-2-1.

Rookie coach Ken Hutchins was asked the reason for the great start, and he was quick to give credit to Rene LeClerc, who retired last spring after eight years behind SNHU’s bench.

“I think our greatest strength can be attributed to the transition from Rene LeClerc to myself. It was real easy, and we never broke any momentum.”

Hutchins, who served as an assistant to LeClerc for many years, offered some other thoughts on his squad:

“Our team is becoming more accountable for our actions, on and off the ice. We work on team fundamentals in practices, and with the weights off the ice. They were evaluated over the summer, and will be evaluated again after the break. The guys are also developing on and off the ice, and growing closer.”

An alumnus of SNHU, and a four year member of the hockey team (which was called New Hampshire College at the time), Hutchins realizes things are about to get harder.

“We’re off to a great start, but we have a tough schedule coming up. We’ve got Curry, Fitchburg, UMass Dartmouth, and St. Anselm’s,” Hutchins noted. “These are all top teams that we haven’t faced yet. We have a very tough conference schedule in January and February.”

One key to the early success of the Penmen so far has to be their depth, something their coach is quick to point out.

“We’ve got three goalies, seven defensemen, and five lines playing out of six. Our depth is our biggest strength right now. We feel confident as a coaching staff to dress any player.”

One player who has contributed mightily both on and off the ice is senior forward and captain Brandon Hammermeister. He currently leads the team in scoring with eight goals and 11 assists, but it’s not just the statistics the impress Hutchins.

“Hammer represents our team. He’s the one who has brought everyone together, and gotten them to rally for a common cause.”

Hammermeister, who hails from Calgary, Alberta, also led the team in scoring the last two years, and he’s got two sophomore line-mates this year who are complementing him quite well this campaign.

“John Frey and Ryan DiBartolomeo have both improved and raised their game from last year,” observed Hutchins.

Both players came up huge in the Penmen’s 4-3 OT victory over Suffolk to seal a third place finish in the Codfish Bowl late last month, each notching a goal and an assist, with Frey getting the game winner 2:15 into the extra period.

Also up front, SNHU has been getting offense from a pair of freshmen. Troy Marbury is averaging nearly a point per game, with three goals and five assists in nine games. Ed Montgomery has five goals and two assists in as many games. Both already have a game winner on their résumé as well.

On the blueline, Hutchins offered these thoughts:

“Senior Josh Goodman has been a nice player back there, as well as Kent Honeyman, who’s played every game. David Carroll is developing into a nice player ad maybe a future captain.”

In goal, Hutchins has had the luxury of having three goalies, and he’s comfortable with all of them. Junior Matt Courchesne has a perfect record so far, sporting a 4-0-0 mark. He has been pushed by sophomore Shane Brooks, who is 2-1-1, and by freshman Todd Rowley (1-1). Hutchins feels that Courchesne and Brooks will probably log most of the minutes when play resumes again on Jan. 12 at Franklin Pierce.

Overall, it’s been a good first half for the first year coach, who offered a couple of more thoughts.

“We seem to be killing penalties quite well,” Hutchins said. “We sometimes take aggressive penalties, but we kill them off. We’ve been scoring a lot of goals, there are six lines we carry, and I feel comfortable putting in any of them.”

To illustrate his point, one only has to look at the ECAC NE stats sheet to see that SNHU is the most penalized team (37.1 PIM) per game, which is more than five and a half minutes more per game than the next highest team. Their penalty killing is ranked second overall, just behind Nichols. SNHU all leads all seventeen teams with 4.70 goals per game.

After a two week respite from game action concludes, the Penmen play four times in eight days. In addition to the game at Franklin Pierce, they play home games against Becker on Jan. 15 and host Curry on Jan. 17 before traveling to Fitchburg State two days hence.