When I changed jobs earlier this year, one thing I resolved to do was take more time to enjoy my trips up to Dartmouth for Homecoming. I’ve made it up to Hanover every year since I graduated, but because the weekend is before the Ivy League schools start hockey season, I’ve always found myself running all over northern New England to catch a game at New Hampshire, Vermont, UMass, Northeastern, etc, to see whoever happened to be in town.
So this year, I took a couple of days off from work, drove up to Hanover on Thursday. I spent some time visiting old professors and hanging out at my old fraternity. I played with the marching band in the Dartmouth Night parade and at the bonfire, then danced at my fraternity’s traditional “Early 80s” party (in a 1980 replica Mike Eruzione jersey, naturally).
And then, after the football game on Saturday afternoon, I drove up to Burlington to see Vermont play Miami.
It’s like “Hotel California:” You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.
Seriously, I’m always eager to see teams from the WCHA and CCHA come east – it’s how I saw a lot of them when I was at CSTV, and with Miami coming to Vermont, I had to see this one. Besides, it would give me a chance to look at a couple of guys I’d been curious about for the Hobey Watch.
Miami, of course, had one of the Hobey Hat Trick finalists last year in Ryan Jones, and as they look to replace his production this year, it’s only natural to think that a player that helps do that could find himself in consideration for a Hobey finalist slot of his own.
Carter Camper was a big hit last season with the likes of Dave Starman, Matt McConnell and Adam Zucker from CBS College Sports, who took turns touting the Rocky River, Ohio native on their Hobey Watch ballots. Of course, broadcasters have more than one reason to like Camper, as “Carter Camper” does tend to roll off the tongue a fair bit easier than, say, “Matti Kaaltiainen,” but when a guy is coming off a 41-point freshman season in which he was also a +21 for his team, you have to imagine a shot at the Hobey isn’t out of the question. Meanwhile, fellow RedHawk center Pat Cannone turned heads with a six-point effort against Ohio State in the second game of the season – the first such game at Miami in 21 years – and when a player can put up six points in one night, it’s certainly worth taking a look.
To be honest, I didn’t see much from either player, as neither player put up a point on the evening (although Cannone did deliver a key goal for the RedHawks in the shootout). What I could see is the confidence both players exude with the puck, and how hard they work out on the ice. Even if I didn’t get to see the players put up any impressive numbers, I got a sense of how they do it.
Of course, a lot of their confidence has to do with the fact that they’ve already been called on to deliver early in their college careers. The injuries sustained by Nathan Davis last season deprived the RedHawks of a major scorer, and players like Camper and Cannone, among others were called on to replace that production. Clearly, they did, helping Miami to another NCAA tournament appearance
The other player I wanted to have a look at was Vermont’s Peter Lenes. When I wrote my “Casting Call” blog post last week, I toyed with the idea of listing Lenes as the “understudy” to Ryan Duncan for the “role” of Nathan Gerbe, even though the numbers didn’t merit it, because the image I’ve had of Lenes during his career is similar to the image I’ve had of Gerbe: small and scrappy. I wanted to take a good look at Lenes and see if he had the potential for that kind of a season.
The answer, to my surprise, is that stranger things have happened.
The key element that Gerbe has that Lenes does not is real burning speed. That’s not to say he isn’t fast – at that size, you have to be to be an effective D-I college hockey player – but I saw him get beat to a loose puck in the first period that Gerbe would have been all over.
At the same time, Lenes is off to a great start so far this season. He has six points (2g, 4a) in his first three games, after a goal and an assist against the RedHawks. His assist to get Vermont on the board against Miami on Saturday night came on a beautiful pass to Corey Carlson, giving his classmate a wide open net. Leaping into Carlson’s arms to celebrate the goal was a fun touch, too…and I do have to admit, it reminded me just a bit of Gerbe celebrating with some of his larger BC teammates.
The other thing that struck me about Lenes is the way he’s willing to go to the walls and battle bigger players. He gets out there and wants to hit you, and he seemed perfectly comfortable getting to the front of the net for his power play goal. A 5’6″ forward trying to establish a physical presence…you know, with its French roots, Vermont is kind of the perfect place for a guy with a Napoleonic complex!
If linemate Justin Milo continues his hot start – the Cornell transfer has taken quickly to Kevin Sneddon’s fast-paced, skating-oriented system, with three goals in his first three games, plus a shootout goal against Miami Saturday – Lenes should have plenty more opportunities to pick up points of his own, and while I don’t see him keeping up a two-points-per-game pace very deep into the season, Lenes may well have Hobey finalist numbers in him. Even if he doesn’t, he should be a tremendous amount of fun to watch this season.