This Week in the ECAC West

Who is Manhattanville?

Manhattanville traveled to the Aud last weekend and swept the Utica Pioneers, moving into a tie with Hobart for second place in the league standings. Normally, a late season four point weekend would make a coach pretty happy, but not so for Valiants head coach Keith Levinthal who came away more confused than ever.

The weekend started well enough on Friday night as the Valiants rode a three goal second period to pull out a gritty 5-3 victory in a see-saw game.

?Getting the four points was necessary, but I don?t think I?ve ever left a game late in the year not knowing what to make of it,? said Levinthal. ?On Friday, we weren?t always very smart but we competed and were gutsy. We gave it all we had and did enough to get the win. In some ways, I was very proud of my team on Friday night.?

Saturday was a different game entirely. Utica out shot Manhattanville 22-12 during the first two periods as it seemed like the Valiants were just going through the motions. Fortunately for the team in red, junior Dillon Henningson started to pull Manhattanville out of their funk, eventually scoring a natural hat trick–the first of his career–to steal the game from the Pioneers, 4-2.

?On Saturday, we might have put together two of the worst periods we?ve played in the last 10 years,? said Levinthal. ?In the third period, to our credit, we may have actually figured it out and did what we had to do to win. What really confuses me on the weekend is I can?t believe we can be so bad for two periods in such a vital game.?

?Probably their goaltending saved Saturday for us, in the whole truth,? he continued. ?I guess good teams win games like that. We were asleep at the wheel for 40 minutes in that game. We seemed to have no energy, no legs, no enthusiasm, and then all of the sudden in the last period it clicked a little bit for us.

?After that weekend, I?m not sure where we stand and who we are.?
That doesn?t bode well for Manhattanville as this weekend they host a hungry Hobart squad. Both teams are jockeying for the regular season title and the right to host a playoff game, so it?s not a good time of the season for the Valiants to try and ?find themselves.?

Grab the Ring

It is the final weekend of the regular season, and for the first time in many years the top four spots in the standings are all up for grabs.

Elmira still has the inside track on first place with a two point lead over the rest of the pack, but the Soaring Eagles can still finish lower if they don?t take care of business in Utica this weekend. Two points is the magic number for Elmira to clinch the regular season title.

If they were to end up in a tie with Hobart, Elmira owns the head-to-head tiebreaker. In a tie in the standings against Manhattanville, it falls to the third tiebreaking criteria, record against common opponents, to decide in Elmira?s favor.

However, if Utica takes three or four points from Elmira this weekend, that opens the door for either Hobart or Manhattanville to snatch the regular season title. They play each other and are tied in second place right now, so one would need to take at least three points on the weekend to stake a claim to the title.

No matter what happens, Elmira will finish no lower than second place so the Soaring Eagles fans can pencil in a home date for the playoff?s semifinal weekend.

Hobart can finish as low as third place if both Elmira and Manhattanville have good weekends.

Manhattanville, on the other hand, can finish anywhere from first to fourth depending on how they do against Hobart and how well Elmira and Neumann make out.

Neumann, currently in fourth place, has a pair of games against Lebanon Valley and currently sits in fourth place, four points back from Hobart and Manhattanville. If the Knights sweep Lebanon Valley, and Hobart sweeps Manhattanville, then Neumann would finish in third place and avoid the dreaded play-in game.

This result would happen because Neumann went 2-0-1 against the Valiants early in the season, thus capturing the head-to-head tiebreaker. This result would send Manhattanville to the play-in game and give Hobart a home semifinal playoff game as the Statesmen would finish in second place.

Utica is buried in fifth place with no hope of climbing the standings, so they are definitely on the road for the play-in game. Unless the above scenario happens, the Pioneers are headed to Neumann for that game, a team they have lost to twice already this season. Otherwise, Utica will go to Manhattanville for the play-in game, who swept the Pioneers this season. Either way, Utica will have to play better hockey than they have been recently if they want to advance in the postseason.

No matter how everything shakes out, it is going to come down to an exciting set of games on the final weekend of the season to decide the regular season standings.

Game of the Week

There is a lot on the line in every rink around the league this weekend, but the most interesting pair of games will be at Playland Ice Casino in Rye, NY. Hobart and Manhattanville enter the weekend tied for second place. Both can finish as high as first place, or as low as third for Hobart and fourth for Manhattanville.

Hobart hasn?t defeated the Valiants since January 21, 2006, and the Valiants have gone 8-1-1 in their last 10 games against the Statesmen.

?I?m pretty sure I know what we?re going to see from Hobart, but I?m not sure what we?ll see from our side,? said Levinthal. ?Our record versus Hobart over the years is pretty good. I?m sure they are fired up about this and we have to find a way to match their intensity and effort. Forget what?s on the line here, they just want to beat us. That to me is far more dangerous than the other stuff.?

However, don?t count Hobart out just yet. The Statesmen have been playing great hockey during the stretch run, including this past weekend as coach Mark Taylor won his 128th game on Saturday to tie the school record.

Hobart leads all of collegiate hockey in shorthanded goals with 12, including scoring three this past weekend against Neumann to set another school record.
It should be a great pair of games at Playland this weekend.


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