This Week in the ECAC West

Hat, Hat, Hat, Hat, Hat Trick

Over the holidays, Neumann junior Mike Hedden completed one of the most amazing feats in hockey amidst very little fan fare. It started on November 30 as Neumann defeated Lebanon Valley 8-2.

Hedden tallied three goals and an assist that night, and began a streak of scoring hat-tricks that would eventually span five games over a month long period.

The next night, also against Lebanon Valley, Hedden pitched in three goals and three assists. In back-to-back games against Fredonia on December 7 and 8, Hedden tallied again three goals in each game.

And he chipped in four goals against Becker on December 29 in the opening round of the St. Michael’s Invitational tournament.

Hedden almost extended the streak to six games in the tournament championship game against Concordia (MN), but whiffed on an open net shot after having scored two goals earlier in the game.

“He was on the left hand side of the net,” said Neumann coach Phil Roy. “The only thing he had to do was push it in and he got a little cute and kind of whiffed on it. The goalie stopped it, so I gave him a little bit of hell for that. He was already thinking of his celebration.”

The 18 goal outburst over this six game span has propelled Hedden to the top of the ECAC West scoring charts, double the number of goals by any other player in the league.

Unfortunately, neither the ECAC or NCAA keep a record of most consecutive games with a hat trick, according to the ECAC’s Michael Letzeisen. The only hat trick related record in the books is quickest to start the game.

But fortunately for USCHO, columnist and D-III blogger Chris Lerch and myself have been covering the ECAC West since 1995, so we dug deep into the memory banks this past weekend as we killed time on a five hour drive to broadcast a hockey game and came up with at least one instance of a similar streak.

That streak was at the start of the 1996-97 season, when RIT’s Steve Toll began the year with consecutive hat tricks in each of the first four games of the season. Toll started by tallying three in an 11-6 route against York in an exhibition game.

He then scored three in the opening game of the RIT tournament against Villanova, which the Tigers won 20-3. Long time ECAC West fans might remember this game as the Tigers out shot Villanova 98-34 in this wide open contest.

Toll scored his third consecutive hat trick against Niagara in the championship game of the tournament, as RIT defeated the Purple Eagles 9-4. He then completed his streak by scoring the first four goals, and the last goal, of the game, for a total of five tallies against Canisius on November 8, 1996 in a 6-3 RIT victory. Toll also added an assist on the Tigers only other goal of the night.

The streak finally came to an end on November 23 when Toll scored the first goal of the game in a 6-6 tie with Geneseo, but could only must four other assists during the game.

A Rochester Democrat and Chronicle article at the time read: “Toll opened the season with four consecutive hat tricks, tying an NCAA record and earning him a spot in Sports Illustrated’s Faces of the Crowd.” But I have found no confirmation of such a record currently with the NCAA.

Mike Hedden’s recent flurry of five hat tricks surpasses Toll’s record, and at least anecdotally sets a new mark for the ECAC West.

“He really lit on fire the last few games, and I am happy to see that,” said Roy. “He also academically got his GPA boosted up a little bit, so he is excelling all the way around.”

It has also helped vault Neumann to eight straight wins, after starting the season with a mediocre 4-4 record.

Helping the Knights get going was the return of senior Neil Trimm, who is the first Neumann player to ever surpass the 100 career assist mark. Trimm returned in the middle of November, after missing three games with an injury, and now has 13 goals and 22 assists on the season, and 59 goals and 106 assists in his 75-game collegiate career.

“Neil Trimm coming back is a factor,” said Roy. “He brings a presence on the bench and just the stature as a great leader on our team. There was a comment made to me a while back that even just sitting on the bench he boosts the morale. Subconsciously, that played a role.”

Neumann will need to hang on to their hot sticks, as they are in the middle of a two week lull in their schedule. The Knights only have nine games remaining to play in their season, and all are league contests.

Taking it to the French

Also over the holidays, Utica took a nine day excursion to the Rhone-Alps region of southeast France, fitting in four hockey games around sightseeing and camaraderie.

The Utica hockey team at the 1992 Olympic site in Albertville, France.

The Utica hockey team at the 1992 Olympic site in Albertville, France.

In the first game, soon after the Pioneers arrived, Utica lost 6-3 to Elite Division club Chamonix.

“We were down 5-0 right away, and they beat us 6-3,” said Utica coach Gary Heenan. “Just not knowing how to play on the big sheet and having travel legs hurt us. They moved the puck extremely well and it was a great experience for us.”

But then Utica dominated the other three games against lower First Division teams winning by a combined score of 33-7.

“It was a super trip for the guys to a beautiful part of the world,” said Heenan. “The hockey, to be honest, was a little disappointing. [After Chamonix] we played three first division teams, and to call those pro teams is a stretch. But for us, it was a good thing. Confidence is up. We worked on a lot of things. We haven’t been able to score goals, so to score the goals over there definitely was added to the holiday experience and let the guys have some fun.”

Scoring goals has been a problem for Utica so far this season in NCAA play, so the confidence gained by putting the puck past the French goaltenders may be just what the Pioneers need heading into the second half of the season here in the States.

Hockey wasn’t the only activity on the itinerary for the trip. Some of the team went skiing on Mount Grand Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps, trips were taken to see glaciers in the area, and the team also toured Geneva, Switzerland.

Many parents of the players took advantage of the opportunity to go along on the trip, and even a few fans were included in the travel party.

“It was a chance to bond and never forget the rest of their lives,” concluded Heenan. “It was just phenomenal.”

Game of the Week

This is the last weekend of non-conference games for most of the teams, who are looking for a bit of a tune-up before jumping back into the stretch run of the league.

Perhaps most interesting this week are Manhattanville at Potsdam on Friday and Elmira at Geneseo on Saturday. Both teams will look to extend the ECAC West’s dominance of the SUNYAC this season (19-6-3), while Elmira has the extra burden of trying to keep its undefeated streak going.