Manhattanville stumbled early last season, going 0-2-1 against Neumann within the first five games of the year, despite having what appeared to be a more talented team. The Valiants got rolling, though, losing only once in its next 19 contests and finished second in the regular season standings.
Looking at the Manhattanville roster before this season, it seems like the rich have gotten richer.
“On paper, it may be the most talented team we have ever had,” said Manhattanville coach Keith Levinthal. “We have a good mix of returning players, leadership, and a pretty darn good recruiting class. That doesn’t mean a whole lot, necessarily, but at least starting off we are pretty excited.”
Defense was a strength for the Valiants last season, leading the league allowing a paltry 2.00 goals per game against with a strong 82.1 percent penalty kill. Offensively, Manhattanville just couldn’t get going, however, ending up fifth in the league in scoring (3.64 goals/game) and fourth in power play scoring (17.5%).
“Some of the guys coming in will help with that,” said Levinthal. “Our power play last year was pretty average and given the way the game is played you need to be really good in that area. The first half of last year, our goaltending was not very good and that caused us to play a little more defensive that we would have preferred to play. I expect that we will be more aggressive this year than we have been in a while. We have some really good forwards and we don’t want to hold these guys back.”
Goaltending got stronger as the season went on. Sergiy Sorokolat started 17 games and earned three shutouts during the season. Pierre-Olivier Lemieux joined the Valiants for the second semester and put up stellar numbers (1.05 GAA, .948 save pct.) in five starts late in the season. Both return this season and should provide a solid tandem in net for the Valiants.
“Sorokolat and Pierre split the second half of the year,” said Levinthal. “We’ll start with them splitting until we determine a starter. We were pleased with Sorokolat but Lemieux is pretty good too. It should be a good area for us.”
Levinthal doesn’t like to single out individual freshmen during the preseason, preferring instead to wait and see what they can contribute on the ice. But he is pretty excited about the large class of forwards coming in to fill the shoes of six seniors who graduated last year. The class includes two transfers from Division I schools Maine and Denver, continuing a trend for the Valiants going back several seasons.
“As a class, we did a few things,” said Levinthal. “We got faster, tougher, and added pretty good skill at the same time. Those were a few issues we thought we needed to address. We were a good skating team but you can never be fast enough in this league. On the toughness side, we have a couple of kids coming in who will really compete.
â€œThey are good solid players who compete really hard, and that will help our work ethic. We have a couple of kids coming in who have a pretty good chance of having a high impact offensively right away. They haven’t proved anything yet, but on paper it is a pretty good class.”
Coach Levinthal and the Valiants are eager to get the season underway and see how well the paper talent translates to the ice.
“I feel really good about our leadership and potential this year,” said Levinthal. “The biggest challenge is that we are in a league where if you aren’t ready to go right away, you find yourself in trouble. There is no warm up. Come October 31st, they are as big as a playoff game.”