A Bump in the Road
Prior to the holidays, the Neumann Knights were rolling along, enjoying a five game unbeaten streak. Despite a hiccup against Elmira and an overtime loss to Hobart, Neumann rebounded to go 2-0-1 against Manhattanville and solidify its position as a contender in the league.
Then came the Times-Argus tournament on New Yearâ€™s weekend. The Knights were far from chivalrous, playing a lackluster game in a 1-2 loss to host Norwich and then dropping the consolation game to Elmira, 4-2.
It wasnâ€™t quite the homecoming to Kreitzberg Arena that Neumann coach Dominck Dawes, a 2004 Norwich graduate, was hoping for.
â€œI thought, and the guys felt it as well, that was the worst weekend of the year,â€ said Dawes. â€œWe didnâ€™t play well. We werenâ€™t clicking. We werenâ€™t finishing and didnâ€™t have the jump that we normally have. Usually we are pretty aggressive and on top of teams and we didnâ€™t have that.â€
The Knights were quick to get back on the horse this past weekend. Neumann exploded for five goals in the first period on Thursday at Potsdam, eventually rolling to a 9-4 win. But even that wasnâ€™t without a bit of a stumble, as Potsdam scored all four of its tallies during a 2:39 span as part of a five minute power play in the third period.
â€œAt that point in the game, we were up 9-0 and started to let up and absolutely should not have,â€ said Dawes. â€œThey got a couple of quick ones. They had a ton of opportunities in that game, even in the first period, and our goalie came up big. They had a fair share of chances, but we just buried ours. We called a timeout, slowed things down, and it was alright after that.â€
Next up for Neumann was a home game on Saturday where the Knights closed out their non-conference schedule with an 8-0 drubbing of Western New England College. They went 5-for-7 on the power play in the game and took control in the second period.
â€œIt was a lot better this past weekend,â€ said Dawes. â€œWe were finishing, which was the big difference, but we had a little bit of jump and a little bit more confidence. It was some of the same guys and some different guys who hadnâ€™t been putting the puck in the net. Going into the stretch that we are going into at the end of the year, weâ€™re going to need that.â€
With 17 goals over the course of the weekend, a lot of Neumann players got on the scoreboard. But on top of the list was senior Jesse Cole who tallied a hat trick against Potsdam and added two more goals and three assists against Western New England.
â€œHeâ€™s one of the main guys and a leader,â€ said Dawes. â€œIf we are going to be successful down the stretch, we needed him to get going. He had a good weekend. He was a little bit snake-bitten going into the break. These past couple of games he was finishing.â€
Neumann is an interesting mix of seniors and freshmen this year, with only a small number of juniors and sophomores in between. But the players have come together as a team, along with their new head coach, and learned a lot about themselves so far this season.
â€œWeâ€™ve learned a lot along the way about each other, from a team standpoint,â€ said Dawes. â€œThese guys work hard. They know what they want to do and come to the rink every day ready to work, compete and have fun. Being a young coach, Iâ€™m always learning things about myself, about them, and different situations. It has been a great experience so far. Hopefully weâ€™ll continue to get better and it will be a fun stretch. Weâ€™ve got a lot of big games left.â€
Neumannâ€™s schedule was front loaded this season. The Knights only have eight games remaining, all league contests. Neumann is idle this weekend, allowing the Knights to catch their breath before the stretch run begins.
â€œThe break is going to help us right now because we are a little bit banged up,â€ said Dawes. â€œIt will help to get some guys healthy, get a little rest that they need, and give us a little more time to prepare.â€
The Lebanon Valley Flying Dutchmen have been plucking along out of the spotlight at the bottom of the ECAC West standings. The Dutchmen have had some ups and downs so far this season but are still looking for their first victory.
During a stretch of four games in early November, Lebanon Valley was in three of the four contests entering the third period. In each of those three games, the Flying Dutchmen played strong defense, limiting their opponents to only four goals.
Unfortunately, it has gone downhill since then as Lebanon Valleyâ€™s opponents have scored double digit goals in three of its last six games.
Lebanon Valley put up a good fight against Geneseo on Tuesday thanks to a pair of unassisted shorthanded goals by freshman Josh Goellner, but fell short of the comeback 4-3.
Opposing coaches who have played Lebanon Valley this season see progress both on the ice and off as the Flying Dutchmen try to lay a foundation to build on.
A highlight for Lebanon Valley this season is the play of freshman Nicholas Schultz, who leads the Dutchmen with five goals and two assists. Schultz is also one of only five players who has played in all 14 games for Lebanon Valley, as head coach Ted Russell searches for the right combination to get the teamâ€™s first victory.
Perhaps Lebanon Valleyâ€™s best chance for that elusive win comes this weekend when they travel to take on UMass-Dartmouth and Nichols. Both teams are in the upper echelons of the ECAC Northeast so the Flying Dutchmenâ€™s task wonâ€™t be an easy one.
Game of the Week
Manhattanville has been on a roll since late November, undefeated in nine straight NCAA games. The only blemish during that stretch came in a loss in an exhibition game against the United States National Team Development Program Under-18 team Thanksgiving weekend.
This weekend, as the Valiants non-conference schedule nears the end, they are traveling to western New York for a pair of games to take on the Fredonia Blue Devils. Fredonia is coming off two tough road losses at Wentworth last weekend.
Manhattanville is trying to keep rolling as they prepare for league play, while Fredonia needs to stop the slide before re-entering the SUNYAC fray. It should make for an interesting pair of games this weekend.