The Week in Review
Last weekend featured some very important match-ups and you would have figured that weâ€™d have figured out a lot more about the NCAA picture but Iâ€™m afraid the picture only became muddier, especially in the NCHA.
Adrianâ€™s sweep of River Falls coupled with Eau Claire taking three points from Stevens Point completely through a wrench into the western playoff picture. The only clear statement made was by Gustavus Adolphus, who took three points from MIAC rival St. Thomas to take a firm grip on not only the MIAC regular season crown but also put them as the likely early front runner for the western region in the NCAA rankings.
In the NCHA, we have the complete opposite as River Falls and Stevens Point are tied atop the conference with 14 points each. However, River Falls has one game in hand on the Pointers. Eau Claire sits in third with 12 points and Superior is fourth with 11 points, but the Yellow Jackets have 2 games in hand Stevens Point and one each with Eau Claire and River Falls.
While those four teams continue to beat up on each other for the NCHA regular season crown and the Peters Cup champion automatic bid, Adrian can possibly present an intriguing case for a third bid in the West. The Bulldogs are now 11-5-1 on the season with their sweep over River Falls and should be able to win out the rest of the way till their season finale series against Stevens Point. If Adrian take three points or better in that series they could be sitting at 19-5-1 with wins over River Falls (2), Stevens Point (2), Gustavus Adolphus, Concordia-Moorhead, Superior and a tie with Eau Claire.
Would that resume be strong enough to beat out the three teams that remain in the NCHA or St. Thomas if Gustavus holds on to win the MIAC? Very interesting match-up that could provide a headache for the NCAA committee come March.
In the East, Elmira swept Utica to secure a pretty strong grasp on the ECAC West regular season title. Plattsburgh beat Amherst 3-1 in a big non-conference match-up for both teams. The Cardinals added a much needed strong win to their resume and now will face a huge series this weekend as they travel to Rochester to take on the sixth ranked R.I.T. Tigers in an ECAC West showdown.
A Rivalry in the Making
Last year, Plattsburgh and R.I.T. met for the first time in ECAC West play and due to the transfer of three Plattsburgh players to R.I.T led to some very heated tensions on the ice and in the stands. They will renew their rivalry this weekend at the Frank Ritter Memorial Arena starting on Friday at 7 p.m. followed by the Saturday game at 2 p.m.
R.I.T. comes into this weekendâ€™s showdown on a 10 game unbeaten streak since dropping three out of four points to Elmira in mid-November. The Tigers will be looking to prove to the nation that their 10 game unbeaten streak has been no fluke as the quality of teams that they played during the streak come nowhere close to Plattsburghâ€™s talent level.
â€œI think the team has come a long way since the Elmira weekend,â€ said R.I.T head coach Scott McDonald. â€œIt was a tough weekend in a tough rink to play and they really took it to us. I think weâ€™re a lot more mentally ready this time at least I hope we are. Weâ€™ve had a good week of practice and weâ€™re excited to play.â€
McDonald realizes that in order for his team to be successful it will come with limiting Plattsburghâ€™s vaunted offense.
â€œWeâ€™ve got to limit the chances for some of their forwards,â€ McDonald said. â€œThey have some very dangerous players that weâ€™re going to need to keep their shots to the outside. Their power play is really clicking well lately for them so weâ€™re going to need to stay out of the box as well.â€
This weekendâ€™s series begins a brutal stretch of six games for R.I.T. as they will have to travel to Utica the following weekend for two ECAC West games and then theyâ€™ll close out the rough stretch with two home games against Amherst and Middlebury the first weekend in February.
â€œEvery game during this stretch is going to be huge for us,â€ McDonald said. â€œIf we lose one or two games that could be the difference between us being left out of the playoffs. Weâ€™re fortunate enough to have four of the games at home but Utica is tough place to play and itâ€™s going to be very interesting to see where we are in the big picture of things.â€
R.I.T. has boasted a pretty impressive offense this season as well as they have 11 players with 10 points or more already this season. Leading way has been sophomore forward Sarah Dagg. Daggâ€™s 11 goals and 14 assists for 25 points tie her for second in the country in points with Elmiraâ€™s Kayla Coady and Adrianâ€™s Stacey Kempson.
However, the offense doesnâ€™t stop there as Keltie Jones (7 goals, 17 assists for 24 points), Amanda Klassen (9 goals, 13 assists for 22 points) and Katie Stack (8 goals, 13 assists for 21 points) round out the Tigersâ€™ 20-point scorers.
Amanda Klassen has been the one to really turn up the offense for the Tigers during their winning streak as she has scored a point in each of their last eight games, capped by a hat-trick and two assists in R.I.T.â€™s 11-3 romp of Sacred Heart.
â€œSheâ€™s kind of been like Danielle Blanchard of Plattsburgh,â€ McDonald said. â€œSheâ€™s really picked it up for us and come alive after a tough start. Sheâ€™s been playing and working a lot harder. She might have been gripping the stick a little tighter earlier in the season but now that sheâ€™s been getting going itâ€™s been great as she loves to score.â€
McDonald thinks that outside of the Tigersâ€™ talented foursome that a pair of freshmen may be key to R.I.T.â€™s success.
â€œAli Hills has put up big numbers so far this season and I think sheâ€™s scored the quietest nine goals Iâ€™ve ever seen,â€ McDonald said. â€œErica Owczarczak has also been outstanding for us and I think since theyâ€™re both freshmen not a lot of people know about what theyâ€™ve doing for us so far this year.â€