Manhattanville finds itself in a situation that it hasnâ€™t seen in a while. The Valiants were swept two weekends ago at Neumann, the first time that has happened since January 12 and 13, 2001 when they lost to Oswego and Cortland.
As if that wasnâ€™t enough, with a 1-2 record Manhattanville is off to its worst start since the first year of the team.
â€œWeâ€™re just not playing within the confines of our game plan enough,â€ said Manhattanville coach Keith Levinthal. â€œWeâ€™ve got to play a certain way to be successful and if we donâ€™t weâ€™re going to have our issues. Weâ€™re just not on all cylinders right now. In some regards, weâ€™re still trying to figure out who the heck we are. I donâ€™t think we know that yet.â€
Manhattanville lost both games to Neumann in heartbreaking fashion. On Friday, the Valiants tied the game midway through the third period before Neumann scored the game winner with less than two minutes remaining.
On Saturday, Arlen Marshall notched a pair of extra-attacker goals in the last minute and half of the game to send it to overtime, but again Neumann won it, this time with only 10 left in the extra frame.
â€œWe expected this team to have a little bit of growing pains, some youth and inexperience, but maybe not to the extent that weâ€™ve had,â€ said Levinthal.
The Valiants have had two weeks to regroup and prepare to re-enter the fray.
â€œI hate these two week breaks but probably in this case it certainly has given us a chance to reflect,â€ said Levinthal. â€œWe need to be more aggressive. We showed the guys video clips of Neumann knocking us around. We had eight minutes of guys in white shirts knocking down guys in red shirts.â€
So what has Manhattanville been working on the last two weeks? Some back to basics, some skill development, but also some soul searching.
â€œWe spent the first week just going back to fundamentals and were able to do some skill development,â€ said Levinthal. â€œWeâ€™ve tried to really just fine tune our systems. There certainly is an Xs and Os part of it, but I think more than anything itâ€™s the maturity part of it.â€
The Hobart Statesmen are carrying a roster of 30 players this season. While some might see that larger than normal roster as a handicap, coach Mark Taylor views it as an asset.
Coach Taylor has juggled his lineup each game. Through eight contests this year, only five players have played in every game while everyone else has been shuffled through the lineup.
â€œWe have had the opportunity to play different guys for different games,â€ said Taylor. â€œOur top players are committed to the process of where we want to be at the end of the year and how weâ€™re going to get there. Itâ€™s not out of the ordinary for us. There are guys knocking on the door loud enough that they have to get into games. We have competitive depth and weâ€™re going to use it.â€
Hobart used that competitive depth last weekend. The Statesmen opened up on Friday with a hard fought 4-1 win at Lebanon Valley.
â€œThey played hard for the whole 60 minutes,â€ said Taylor. â€œIt was a clean game. We peppered them with shots but we had to earn the win.â€
Hobart then shuffled the lineup Saturday at Neumann bringing in six fresh skaters that hadnâ€™t played on Friday. Hobart needed the fresh legs to come back from a two goal deficit late in the third period and win it in overtime. Blake Bonham tallied a hat trick, including a goal to tie the game with 16 seconds remaining in regulation and the game winner at 2:49 of overtime.
â€œWe got the break in overtime,â€ said Taylor. â€œThey are a very good team. A lot of the freshmen are legit contenders right off the bat. I thought they played well. Bonham had a very good game.â€
The pair of victories put Hobart in a three way tie for second place in the league with Utica and Neumann.
Game of the Week
Usually, the game of the week involves a pair of teams at the top of the league standings, and there is such a game this weekend when league leader Elmira travels to The Cooler to take on Hobart. This certainly has all the makings of a great game.
But this week we have to look to the bottom of the standings to find it. Manhattanville hasnâ€™t found itself at the bottom of the league since its first season but that is where we they are right now.
Manhattanville certainly canâ€™t look past its Friday game against Lebanon Valley, and Iâ€™m sure the coaches have been preaching that all week.
But Saturdayâ€™s rematch against Neumann, this time in the friendly confines of the Playland Ice Arena, could be a defining moment for this young team.
â€œAt the end of the day, we got knocked down and now weâ€™ll see if we get up,â€ said Levinthal. â€œThis upcoming weekend being at home, weâ€™ll learn a lot about our team. Weâ€™ve had a couple of weeks now to prepare for this upcoming weekend and weâ€™ll see if we have learned from our mistakes. Hopefully Friday will be a chance for us to get going in the right direction. I still believe that if this team figures out who it is that it can win and win a lot.â€
The Valiants have had two weeks to chew on the beating Neumann put on them and will look to return the favor this weekend. It should be a barn burner in Rye, New York.
Iâ€™ll be taking a little bit of a break from college hockey for the next few weeks. Look for the next ECAC West column to be published on January 8, 2009. Between now and then, I wish everyone a very happy holiday season. Be sure to take the time to enjoy family, friends and perhaps even a little hockey, and Iâ€™ll be back writing before you know it.