Sitting atop the ECAC NE, right on the heels of Curry and UMass Dartmouth, is Suffolk University, tied for second and just three points out of first place.
Chris Glionna, now in his fourth year as coach of the Rams, is pleased so far.
â€œWeâ€™ve been pretty happy with it,â€ when asked his thoughts on the season. â€œWeâ€™ve lost a couple of one goal games, so our record isnâ€™t where we want it to be. The team is really maturing each day.â€
The program has made a remarkable turnaround from 2006-07 to 2007-08. Last year, in the first week of February, the Rams were 7-13-1 overall, and 6-4 in the conference. This year, they are 10-9-0 overall, but sport a stellar 8-2-0 conference mark and record within the conference, and are a legitimate threat to finish in first place. The second-to-last game of the season is against Curry at home, and that could mean the winner takes it all within the conference.
One goal losses were a big problem last year, and the Rams have learned to cut down on them this season.
This year alone they dropped five games by a lone tally, with the last one a 2-1 overtime loss to the streaking Bears of Western New England College. Glionna is quick to point out the difference this year in dropping fewer close games.
â€œOur goalie Jeff Rose is the difference between this year and last year. Last year, we lost eight one goal games. Jeffâ€™s been the difference, as heâ€™s been able to stop that extra goal.â€
Rose, a freshman out of Connecticut via the Jr. Valley Warriors of the EJHL, has been a workhorse for Glionna. He has appeared in every game, and has a record of 10-8, with a .913 save percentage and goals against average of 2.99. He also has more points than 10 of his teammates, with an astounding five assists so far.
Up front for the Rams, right wingers Dan Pencinger and Kyle Cook, as well as center Tim Dancey, lead the charge.
Pencinger, a senior, is also the team captain, and he leads the squad with 17 goals and 27 points. He is also dangerous in special teams situations, as his four power-play goals and one shorthanded goal would suggest. Cook has 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points, and he leads the team with five power-play goals.
â€œWe play them on opposite lines,â€ Glionna said, â€œand we feel we have a threat on the ice at all times.â€
When speaking of Dancey, a senior center, Glionna said â€œHe may be our best two-way player. We routinely match him up against the best players on the other team, and he shuts them down. He has a great work ethic.â€
Dancey, who hails from the hometown of last yearâ€™s Stanley Cup champs, is currently third on the team in scoring, with 11 goals and 13 assists for 24 points. He leads the team with two shorthanded goals.
Other players contributing up front are sophomore Mike Mondello, who Glionna says â€œstruggled a bit, but heâ€™s turned it around, and weâ€™ve gotten some good play from him lately,â€ as well as Scott Zanolli, who his coach says has â€œgreat speed.â€
Glionna feels that junior forward Billy Galvin, out of Canton, MA, is â€œone of out better defensive players,â€ and that sophomore Brian Smusz is â€œour best defensive player, and heâ€™s our best on penalty kills.â€
On the blue line for the Rams, Nick Davis and Mitch Sabo lead the way.
â€œTheyâ€™ve played at an all-league level,â€ their coach stated. â€œNight in, and night out, theyâ€™ve been excellent for us.â€
Both have contributed on the score sheet as well, with Davis adding four goals and 11 assists while leading the team with three power-play goals, and Sabo adding eight points, with a goal and seven assists.
When asked his thoughts on the league, Glionna said:
â€œWeâ€™re 8-2 in the conference right now. If we can win, and get home ice advantage, thatâ€™s huge for a program thatâ€™s only made the playoffs once. Thatâ€™s a huge accomplishment.
You look at this league, with Curry, Wentworth, Nichols, and Fitchburg State. You donâ€™t want to play any of them, theyâ€™re all really good! The depth is really there.â€
Suffolk will play three games in five days, beginning on Friday, February 8, when they travel to Fitchburg State. They will then host Becker on Monday, February 11 and Plymouth State on Wednesday, February 13.