What better time to present some midseason awards than a few games after the midseason? Better late than never as they say. Not all these awards are going to be traditional. After all, it’s the middle of January, and when this column gets published, it’s going to be below zero in Rochester, N.Y. We need some fun to get over the winter doldrums besides just watching hockey. And forgive me if I sound a bit loopy this week. The brain doesn’t operate very well when it’s frozen.
Midseason MVP: It’s easy to go with a goalie, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do. My pick is Bryan Hince of Plattsburgh. It’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating: Hince has made the difference in Plattsburgh since their last national championship run when Niklas Sundberg was between the pipes.
With Hince (1.90 goals against average, .919 save percentage), the Cardinals are able to play the style that best suits them, which for a speedy team is an aggressive mode of operation. Knowing they have Hince behind them allows them not to worry when they attack. And attack they do, scoring 65 goals, and in league play a leading 40 markers –. all the while letting up a leading low of 28 and 17 goals, respectively. All thanks to what Hince offers.
He is the key reason Plattsburgh has been D-III?s top ranked team most of the year. I have voted them number one since the preseason poll, not bothering to wait for the inevitable stumble St. Norbert was going to make without Kyle Jones. Jones is the main reason Plattsburgh did not win a national championship last year. Hince will be the main reason the Cardinals do win it this year.
Runner up is another easy choice, and it goes to Todd Sheridan of Brockport. Sheridan actually has better numbers (1.80 GAA, .940 save pct.) than Hince, though arguably against weaker non-conference play. However, out of five Brockport losses, Sheridan has been in net for only one of them. When healthy, Sheridan is the main reason the Golden Eagles not only didn’t stumble after their large class graduated, but have actually had a resurgence.
As for non-goalies, there are plenty of players who have made significant contributions for their teams: Nick Petriello and Jason Hill (Buffalo State), Connor Treacy (Potsdam), Brendan McLaughlin, Mark Lozzi, and Matt Whitehead (Oswego), Dylan Clarke, Joey Wilson, and Nick Rolls (Plattsburgh), Sebastian Panetta (Geneseo), Dana Calderone (Morrisville), and James Muscatello (Fredonia).
Rookie of the Midseason: This is a no-brainer. Eric Selleck has been head and shoulders above any other first year player so far this year. In conference games, he leads all freshmen in goals, assists, and points (7-5-12). His seven goals is tied for the conference lead and his 12 points places him third. Overall, he’s tallied 8-7-15.
“He’s been pretty consistent for us game in and game out,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said. “We knew he’ll be a good player. We didn’t know how good. He’s a fun kid to have on the team. He fits in well with what we do here.
“He’s a big kid. He’s got a long reach. His strength is that he protects the puck really well. As a freshman to come in and contribute right away is always a positive.”
There are a lot of other freshmen making their mark this year, and with a strong second half could contend with Selleck for the end of year award. They include Buffalo State’s Will Lacasse and Cory Park, Potsdam’s Sy Nutkevitch, Brockport’s James Cody, and Geneseo’s Jonathan Redlick. For goaltending, Buffalo State has been relying on a pair of freshmen in Alan Fritch and Zach Grasley.
Coach of the Midseason: This is a toss up between Plattsburgh’s Bob Emery and Geneseo’s Chris Schultz. Emery falls into the classic trap of being so successful for so long, people forget how much of that is due to him. Like any longtime dominant team, such as my beleaguered New York Yankees, whenever they stumble, people are quick to jump on the “so-so is overrated” bandwagon. But Emery has always stayed the course, and when he fills a big missing piece (like goaltending the past two years), you remember why Plattsburgh is dominant. They have someone in charge who knows how to recruit, knows the game, and is able to motivate his players.
I spoke about Schultz in my last column of 2008. Now that Schultz is starting to make his mark on the Ice Knights, Geneseo is once again a team to be reckoned with. They are tied for second place with Oswego, and have once again appeared in the national rankings, even if they did drop out this week.
No Sophomore Jinx: This is also a no-brainer. If you were the SUNYAC Rookie of the Year last year, led your team in goals, assists, and points as a freshman, and then lead your conference in scoring your second year, this award goes to you. Nick Petriello of Buffalo State has not slowed down a bit since being the top newbie last season. He’s tied with the points lead in conference games with 15, thanks to four goals and 11 assists. Overall, his numbers are 9-17-26. That’s just one assist and four points less than all of last year. No sophomore jinx at all.
Runner ups are Dylan Clarke of Plattsburgh — who was named to the Second Team All- SUNYAC last year and has 10 goals and 11 assists this season — and the aforementioned Bryan Hince.
Never Say Die: Morrisville. Their most dramatic moment came in their 5-5 tie against Oswego when they scored the final goal with one second left in regulation. Against Geneseo, the Mustangs scored with 2:23 left in the third period, but they lost in overtime. They scored twice in the final frame against Hamilton to take a two goal lead en route to a 4-3 win. And they beat Johnson & Wales in overtime.
Runner up goes to Fredonia who has salvaged three games in the third period. They beat Buffalo State, 2-1, by scoring the winning goal in the third period. They tied Utica, 3-3, by scoring twice in the final period. They tied Buffalo State, 6-6, by scoring three unanswered goals, two of them in the third period. Even when they lost to Oswego, 5-4, they twice mounted comebacks in the final period. The Blue Devils scored two straight (the first in the last minute of the second period) to cut a 3-0 lead down to 3-2, and then scored another two straight to tie the game at four apiece.
Geneseo and Oswego have also pulled out a number of games in the third period and overtime.
Who Needs Three Periods?: Oswego has shown three periods of hockey is a waste of time. Twice (vs. St. Scholastica in a 5-4 loss and vs. Potsdam in a 2-0 win) they have played games where all the goals were scored in the second period, and in their game against Hobart, eight of the nine goals were scored in the middle stanza. Oswego has scored the most goals in the league in the second period. The Lakers could “go green,” saving the Zamboni a bunch of fuel if they only play the second period. You can still have chuck-a-puck afterwards.
“What Do You Mean You’re Not Coming Back?!”: This “award” goes to Potsdam’s coach Aaron Saul upon hearing that his goaltender, Rick Miller, was unable to return to school for the spring semester. Unfortunately for Saul, Miller informed the coach of this decision the day practice started after the holiday break.
“We have Trevor O’Neill and Travis Crickard who are back and ready to go, and Brad Mallen a kid we called back up who we had cut,” Saul said. “Crickard returned this semester with a new focus and played very well against Elmira.”
Crickard has a 3.94 GPA which is just slightly higher than his career GAA of 3.80. He’ll need more periods like the first two against Elmira in order to get the one number that should be lower.
May As Well Leave After the Second Period: Subtitled, “death, taxes, and blowing a third period lead are the only sure things in life” award. This goes to the fans of Potsdam, who would be better off going home during the second intermission, so they can at least have some happy memories the rest of the night. The Bears have blown no less than four third period leads (vs. Adrian 6-2 then 6-6; vs. Brockport, 2-1 then 2-2; vs. Plattsburgh, 4-1 then 4-4; and vs. Elmira, 3-0 then 3-5). Three of those games were home.
“I don’t know if it’s a mental thing, but our guys are just losing focus for two to three minutes, and it’s costing us,” Saul said. “We have to put a stop to that.”
Combined with the goaltending situation, Saul has to be frustrated. Considering how cold it gets in Potsdam, you can easily spot Saul. He’s the one with steam freezing as it comes out of his ears.
Runner up goes to Oswego who has blown three third period leads if you count their exhibition game against the USA Under-18 Team (3-2 lead turned into a 4-3 overtime loss). The other two games were Morrisville (4-3 and 5-4 leads became a 5-5 tie) and Plattsburgh (3-1 lead turned into a 4-3 overtime loss). Only one game was on the road.
Worst Logo: I’ve given it a year and a half. I can’t give it anymore time. The new logo for Fredonia is simply atrocious. I know that’s being harsh. And I know the logo is for all the sports teams. But this is a hockey column, so I get to criticize based on hockey, and hockey teams should have fierce or at least cool looking logos. Even a benign creature like the cardinal has some fierce poises when holding a hockey stick for Plattsburgh.
When you have the word “devil” as part of your nickname, it opens up all sorts of proper possibilities. Instead, we’re left with Mr. Clean. Spare me this gentler, kinder garbage. This is hockey. A hard hitting, grind it out, tooth loosening sport — a sport that should have flames shooting out of a snarling logo, not a smiling hunky Smurf with puny horns.
SUNYAC Short Shots
D’Arcy Thomas scored twice for Buffalo State as they unleashed 60 shots against Lebanon Valley, winning 7-2 … The margin was larger the next night as the Bengals defeated LVC, 10-1, with a hat trick for Joel Sheppard and Nick Petriello registering two goals and three assists … Brockport also got two easy wins, 7-0 and 7-3, over Worcester State, allowing just 14 shots the first night and getting 62 shots the second game with Adam Shoff scoring a pair.
Andrew Alarie got the overtime winner for Morrisville over Johnson & Wales, with all the scoring occurring after the second period … The teams lit up the lamp a lot more the second night as the Mustangs won again, 7-4, with Dana Calderone getting a hat trick and Dave Schultz scoring twice … Dan Brown scored two goals in the third period trying to ignite Geneseo to comeback after falling behind 3-0, but they still lost to Utica, 3-2 … The only good news in Potsdam’s 9-4 loss to Neumann was scoring four power-play goals on the same major penalty … Joey Wilson scored twice, but Plattsburgh lost their first game of the season, 5-3, to Skidmore … Geneseo scored three power-play goals and one shorthanded goal, but let up two shorties themselves in a 4-3 win over Lebanon Valley … Back in December, Buffalo State’s Jason Hill scored his 100th point, only the fourth Bengal to do so.
Game of the Week
In another week, and the last, of all non-conference games, it certainly would be proper to go with the Geneseo games against Elmira and Hobart for the same reason as last week. They appear to be the most competitive contests and another great opportunity for the Ice Knights to measure themselves against strong ECAC West competition.
However — like the rest of this column — I am going to take the road last traveled. I am particularly interested in the Manhattanville at Fredonia games. Manhattanville struggled early in the year, then got hot beating Elmira and Hobart, and then ran off a bunch of wins against inferior ECAC Northeast opposition, but tied Curry. Meanwhile, Fredonia hasn’t lived up to expectations, though at times it looked like they would against Utica and a tough battle with Oswego.
It will be interesting to see which teams show up for this weekend. And they have two games to figure it out.
On The Periphery
One of my favorite sporting events is winding down this week. The timing of this 16 day marathon is perfect. After the holiday letdown, having to face a cold, snowy January, following this event makes getting through this part of the year a little bit easier.
I’m talking of the Dakar Rally, which is merely a brand name now since they had to abandon Africa due to terrorist threats and move to South America. However, it’s proving to be just as tough as ever, and I greatly admire the men and women who take on one of the greatest challenges in human endurance, pain, and struggle. A challenge where not just finishing, but surviving, literally, is just as lofty a goal as winning.
The detractors will point to how dangerous it is. It is. No question about it. One motorcyclist has died this year, and the last time Dakar was run in 2007, two motorcyclists perished. In the 30th running of this event, that brings the total fatality rate for competitors to 49 (some of them former champions), making it quite possibly the most dangerous sporting event in the world.
However, no one is forced to compete (80% are amateurs). They do so voluntarily. Willingly. Eagerly. They keep coming back year after year. Perhaps, it is because they understand this is one of the last bold pure adventures in an over sanitized, overprotective, over legislated world. And they wouldn’t want it any other way.
Everyday for the first two weeks in January, I come home from work, get my supper ready, sit down in front of the TV, and watch the daily highlight show on Versus, dreaming of the day I can witness the Dakar Rally in person.