This Week in the ECAC West: Nov. 12, 2009

More Offensive

The Manhattanville offense is clicking nicely three weeks into the season, averaging 6.67 goals per game to lead the nation. Coming off a strong weekend against Lebanon Valley (whom Manhattanville scored 16 goals against) some might scoff at the garish numbers. Not so fast.

“I was impressed with Lebanon Valley,” said Manhattanville head coach Keith Levinthal. “I think they have made great strides and worked hard for 120 minutes. We played well too, but despite the scores that is a much improved hockey team we played. We had to earn what we got against those guys. In the past, we haven’t. For whatever it is worth, I’ll be happy when I am done playing them because they are going to beat somebody.”

Leading the way on the scoreboard last weekend were junior Mickey Lang and senior AJ Mikkelsen. Lang scored four times and assisted on another Friday night, tying a school record for goals in a game set by Chris Trafford back in 2008. Lang’s linemates, senior Arlen Marshall and freshman Scott Hudson, certainly helped on the big night.

“The line of Lang, Hudson, and Marshall were absolutely on fire,” said Levinthal. “It is a pretty quick and skilled line. They scored some really nice goals. Mickey is an exceptionally fast skater and plays tough. He was the beneficiary of a good line.”

Mikkelson had two helpers on Friday, and then chipped in a pair of goals and added two more assists Saturday to rack up six points on the weekend series.

“He had a little bit of a disappointing season last year so it was good to see him put some points on the board,” said Levinthal. “As he goes, our power play goes.”

Scoring is not something that the Valiants have excelled at the past two seasons. During that span, Manhattanville averaged less than four goals per game and finished fifth and third respectively in conference offense. The early success at lighting the lamp this year could portend a turn around on the scoresheet for Manhattanville.

“We’ve only played three games but it does appear, based on some of the goals we are scoring, that we have significantly more firepower than we have had in the last two years,” said Levinthal. “Three years ago, we led the country in scoring. It looks like, at this early stage, that we have more offensive potential than we have had since that year. We have shown some offensive flair.”

In other news this week, Manhattanville has hired Hamilton’s long-time former coach Phil Grady onto its coaching staff as an assistant. After serving as head coach for 24 seasons and amassing 304 wins, Grady retired citing health reasons and family concerns. Coach Levinthal had a prior relationship with Grady and had an open position on his staff. A few preliminary conversations later and Grady is now a Valiant.

“I’ve known Phil Grady for a long time and I heard he was itching to get back into coaching,” said Levinthal. “We were fortunate enough that he was able to join our staff. It is a huge addition to our program given his experience and stature in the game. He has the ability to bring a lot every day. He has an unbelievable work ethic. To have somebody who has been in the game as long as he has, he brings some major experience to our team. We are lucky to have him.”

The added experience comes at a good time for Manhattanville as they have a bye this week before heading right back into league play on November 20. The Valiants will be on the road against Lebanon Valley Friday and then head to Neumann, a place they haven’t had success in well over a year.

“I hate the bye week because it will be a challenge for us to have a week of practice with nobody to play,” said Levinthal “It will be an issue for us to make sure we are sharp that Friday at Lebanon Valley. Plus we are playing a team for the third straight time and it only gets harder the more you keep playing a team back-to-back-to-back.”

Manhattanville was swept at Neumann in early November last season, accounting for half of the team’s total losses all season. And the Valiants also lost their only game at Neumann two seasons ago. The Knights home rink, the Ice Works, has not been a friendly place for Manhattanville and that will be playing on the mind of the Valiants team for the next two weeks.

“We’ve lost three in a row at Neumann,” said Levinthal. “I think those two losses at Neumann last year cost us getting into the [NCAA] tournament. That was kind of our Waterloo last year. We have to go in there and find a way to win a hockey game against a team that is obviously very good. I hate the two week layoff.”

Early Starts

Hobart endured a rough weekend last Friday and Saturday. It started early at Geneseo when the Knights scored twice in the opening four minutes of the game, the first of which was shorthanded while the other was a 2-on-1 breakaway.

The Statesmen climbed back into the game mainly on the shoulders of junior Matt Wallace, who finished off a hat trick six minutes into the third period to cut Hobart’s deficit to 4-3. But that was as close as the Statesmen could get.

“We spotted Geneseo some grade A chances right off the bat,” said Hobart head coach Mark Taylor. “We had plenty of chances to win. We missed a breakaway. We had a couple of guys that didn’t have their best game, and that factored into it, but at the same time that’s not all of it. We have to be ready to play.”

Hobart didn’t get much help from the referees either, who disallowed three Statesmen goals during the game. While one was clearly not a goal, the other two were a bit more controversial and hindered the Statesmen as they tried to dig out of their early hole.

On Saturday at Brockport, Hobart was much better from the opening faceoff. Junior Daniel Organ scored just 28 seconds into the game and classmate Christopher Bower added another eight minutes later to pace the Statesmen to a 4-1 victory.

Entering the season, there were two big question marks hovering over the Hobart team.

The first was how 13 freshmen would meld with the team. While the jury is still out on this, five of the freshmen have amassed at least a point this season and Christopher Cannissaro is tied for the points lead on the team with three goals and three assists. However, the freshmen have struggled at times as seen at the start of the Geneseo game.

“We’re feeling some growing pains early this year but we’ll get rid of them,” said Taylor.

The other question mark was in net as Hobart tries to replace an All-American goaltender. Newcomer Nick Broadwater has seen the majority of starts and has played all but 30 minutes between the pipes for the Statesmen. Broadwater has impressive stats, including a 1.74 goals against average and a 92.9 save percentage and appears to be settling into the starting role quite nicely.

“Right now, he has established himself as the front runner,” said Taylor. “He has had the opportunity to do it and has done well. I’m sure the other guys will keep the challenge coming.”

Game of the Week

Neumann travels to the Thunderdomes to take on Elmira in the Game of the Week. The Knights are used to playing in front of hostile fans, though, as they are coming off a tough two games at the Utica Aud.

Neumann failed to hang on to a two goal lead two weeks ago, settling for a 4-4 tie, but then got blown out in a 7-3 special teams barnburner this past Friday. The Knights gave up six power-play goals on 10 chances and you can be sure that coach Dominic Dawes has been focusing on that area of the game this week.

Elmira is coming off a harder-than-it-should-have-been game against Fredonia, in which the Soaring Eagles watched the Blue Devils score a pair of shorthanded goals in the third period to tie the game, 4-4. Sophomore Rick Acorn scored midway through the period to preserve the victory for Elmira. Every tally was accounted for via special teams.

With special teams dominating, you can expect a wild affair as Elmira and Neumann meet for the first time this season.

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