This Week in the ECAC West

Getting Your Money’s Worth

Hobart and Neumann played a pair of wild games last weekend in Aston, PA that provide a glimpse of the kind of hockey that fans can expect in the ECAC West down the stretch.

Friday’s contest saw Neumann start out on a tear, scoring four goals in the first 6:11 of the game. Four different players scored for Neumann, and seven other players got assists. The only multi-point player in the spurt was Jesse Cole with a pair of assists.

Neumann out shot the Statesmen 21-8 in that wild first period. But after that, Hobart slowly clawed back into the contest, thanks at least in small part to the Knights letting off the gas a little.

“We had been off for a couple of days and the guys were excited to be there [on Friday],” said Neumann coach Phil Roy. “It was a very good period for us. We have to continue our progression and play for the whole length of the game. Even though I was trying to keep them focused on different areas of the game, that’s the Jekyll and Hyde of it. There was a little bit of letting up, unfortunately.”

You can’t really blame the Neumann players from thinking that everything would go in for them on Friday, but they may have underestimated the resiliency of the Hobart team.

The Statesmen scored an even strength goal midway through the second and added a shorthanded goal late in the third to make it a game, but Neumann held on to a 4-2 win in the end.

Saturday’s contest was one of those classic games that was a battle all night long. A game where the players and coaches enjoy competing in and the 700-plus Neumann fans were on the edge of their seats from the opening drop of the puck until after the final buzzer.

“Both games were very good games, especially the Saturday one,” said Roy. “I know the fans got their money’s worth. It was a great game to coach. From all aspects, from the fans to the bench to the visiting team to the refs, it was an intense affair. Until the end, it was a crazy game.”

Both teams had two goal leads at various times in the game, only to see the other team charge back. The longest time between goals was only 13 minutes, and the game had everything in it including a penalty shot.

Neumann led 3-1 midway through the contest, but Hobart used special teams to storm back to take a 4-3 lead just under eight minutes into the third period. The Statesmen scored a power-play goal and shorthanded goal during the rally.

To top it all off, the last two minutes got even crazier. At 18:15, Hobart’s Kyle Whitaker was called for a tripping penalty. Coach Roy immediately pulled goaltender Mike Collichio, but Hobart’s Nick DeCroo scored a shorthanded, empty-net goal at 19:10 despite Neumann skating with a 6-4 player advantage.

The Knights weren’t done, though. Just 13 seconds later, Erik Stoyanvich scored his second of the night to pull Neumann back within a goal. But the clock wound down to zero and Hobart escaped with a wild 5-4 victory.

Emotions were understandably running at a fever pitch at the final buzzer, and a bit of a scrum broke out. Both coaching staffs quickly stepped in to quell the uprising, but Hobart goaltender Keith Longo (elbowing) and Neumann defenseman Mike Gooch (roughing) were each assessed penalties.

“There was a little scrum at the end there,” said Roy. “Things were said, a couple of shoves. The intensity was so high, some of my players were frustrated and some of the Hobart players were so happy, it was hard to contain the emotion. We were able to stop it before it escalated. The emotion kind of overlapped the 60 minutes.”

Two themes continued to permeate these teams during the weekend.
First, Hobart’s penalty killing unit is Dangerous, with a capital D. The Statesmen scored three shorthanded goals against Neumann on 16 opportunities across the two games. Hobart has now scored 10 shorthanded goals this season, and is second in the nation behind only Marian (16).

“I thought about declining the penalties,” Roy joked.

Second, while Neumann’s offense is rocking and rolling, averaging 5.17 goals per game (third in the nation), its defense is in the dumps, allowing 3.11 goals per game (31st in the country). In both games this past weekend, Neumann got out to a great start and had Hobart on the ropes, but let the Statesmen back in to the contest.

“It is a concentration factor,” said Roy. “We have the pieces and the players to do the job defensively, it is just a question of concentration.”

Coming Into His Own

As a freshman last season at Elmira, Rusty Masters started out as many freshmen do. He worked hard in the preseason, adjusting to both academic life and a new hockey team. As the season began, he started on the fourth line and saw some time on the third line. By the end of the season, he had worked his way up the line chart and ended the season as Elmira’s second leading scorer and tied for the most game winning goals.

“[Rusty] comes to play every single night,” said Elmira coach Tim Ceglarski. “He is one of the guys that we don’t have to worry about taking things lightly. He is our hardest worker in practice and in every single game.”

Masters comes from good stock. His father is Jamie Masters, who played a total of 33 games for the St. Louis Blues over the course of three stints in the NHL.
“Rusty plays that hard,” said Ceglarski. “The work ethic that he brings to the table is second to none. He is a guy last year as a freshman who started out on the third or fourth line and worked his way up to first line center, and that is where he hopefully will stay for the next two years.”

He has continued his hard work this season as a sophomore and has come to be relied on in all situations by the coaching staff.

“He is a guy who plays 5-on-5, 4-on-4, kills penalties, and is on the power play,” said Ceglarski. “His hard work puts him in to positions to get key goals for us. He always seems to be in the right position. A lot of the stuff he does on the ice, you can’t teach.”

Masters leads the Soaring Eagles in goals scored and is tied for the top non-Neumann player in the league in goals. Masters also is tied for first in the nation in game-winning goals, having already chipped in three so far. He is averaging just over a point a game over the course of his 42 game career.

Game of the Week

Utica and Elmira have developed a strong rivalry over the last few years. Both teams have core sets of fans that travel well to the other’s venue, adding to the atmosphere of the games.

Last season, the Soaring Eagles and Pioneers split their league games right down the middle with a victory for each on the road, and a tie in the third game. This season, the road team has continued to rule as Elmira put a 5-2 thumping on Utica at the Aud.

The Pioneers will be looking to return the favor this weekend at Elmira’s Thunderdomes. On the other bench, if the Soaring Eagles can hold serve throughout this weekend’s two game set, they will take a commanding lead in the league.