This Week in the ECAC East-NESCAC: Jan. 7, 2010

A Happy New Year to all!

The second half of the season has begun and there are New Year’s resolutions abounding amongst the coaches and players as we start 2010. Some teams have already started with a holiday tournament while others are tasting their first competitive action in over two weeks this weekend. What are teams looking for in the second half? Here’s a breakdown by conference of resolutions that, if kept, should provide consistency for better hockey ahead.

ECAC East

Norwich

Who needs resolutions when you are unbeaten in regulation this season and just beat second ranked Plattsburgh on home ice this past Tuesday? The offense is clicking at over five goals per game while the defense and goaltending are holding teams to just over one goal a game. Special teams are excelling on both the power play and shorthanded situations and the freshmen are contributing in a big way already.

If anything, if it’s not broken leave it alone and the Cadets are already in midseason form and playing very good hockey. Six players are in double digit points with freshman Kyle Thomas leading the way in goals with 10. With Ryan Kligensmith playing lights out behind a solid group of defensemen, the Cadets should have visions of playing late into March.

Babson

Having started the new year at the Middlebury Classic last weekend, the Beavers lost to the hosts 4-0 and came back to win the consolation game against Salve Regina by a 5-1 score. In the first 10 games the team is averaging just over three goals per game so the resolution here seems to be finding some other scorers to help senior Chris Wood (seven goals, three assists, 10 points) and junior Terry Woods (3-5-8) who lead the team in points.

If senior Jason Schneider can return to form after missing six games to date, the Beavers get back a legitimate scoring threat to support both the even strength offense as well as the power play.

Skidmore

The Thoroughbreds are 3-2-0 in the conference but just 4-6-0 overall following two lopsided losses at the Cardinal Classic in Plattsburgh over New Year’s. While the scoring has been balanced with 10 players having two goals or more, the three goal per game output isn’t enough for the high-paced style employed by coach Neil Sinclair.

The resolution here is for more scoring especially from juniors Alex Mykolenko (2-9-11) and senior Matt Czerkowicz (2-4-6). That covers the front end but a second resolution would see sophomore Colin Bessey improve on his overall numbers in the second half and help this team advance in the standings and playoffs.

University of Massachusetts-Boston

While the Beacons are off to one of their best starts in years at 5-3-1 through the end of 2009, they need to be resolute about playing more consistent hockey in 2010 if they want to stay near the top of the conference standings. Forwards Kris Kransky and Eric Tufman need to be bigger offensive threats and the penalty killing unit backstopped by four year starter Ryan Donovan in goal will need to cut down on the 19% success rate the opposition has posted through the first nine games.

Defenseman Wayne Sands who has had some injury problems in the first half will be a key for the Beacons in 2010 both on the blueline and quarterbacking the power play.

Southern Maine

The Huskies had a three game winning streak straddling 2009 into 2010 but lost in the final of the Middlebury classic to the Panthers by a 5-2 score. The “Battle of the Beaneys” has gone the Vermont way recently but Southern Maine has a lot to play for in the second half where they usually turn up the intensity and level of consistent play.

Senior Chris Travis (4-10-14) and junior Zach Joy (11-1-12) have been as advertised offensively for the Huskies who could really use some other players to resolve to produce more scoring in the second half of the season. Look for defenseman Paul Conter to be a contributor offensively and better goaltending from the sophomore combination of Koray Celik and Mason St. Hillaire.

St. Anselm’s

Ed Seney’s Hawks spent most of the first half integrating a lot of younger players into the college game and have five freshman among the top 10 in team points through their first eight games of the season. Goaltending from Alex Wyse and Kevin Fairweather has been consistent so far and the Hawks have scored at an average of over four goals per game.

St A’s resolution has to be focused on being as successful on the penalty kill as they have been on the power play. Cutting the opponents’ 19% success rate with the man advantage will certainly help the Hawks stay in the thick of the conference race and prep them well for the NCAA tournament at the end of the season.

New England College

The Pilgrims find themselves looking up in the standings at the break but with a nice two game win streak in the new year against two solid teams in Curry and Salem State. All the pieces are there for the Pilgrims with experience, depth, and skilled players on both ends of the ice. Getting some key points this weekend against UNE and USM will help to jump start the Pilgrims in the second half of league play.

As expected several key seniors are leading NEC offensively and will need to carry that burden in the second half. Look for Mark Ehl (6-5-11) and Alex Muse (6-8-14) along with Trevor Turner (1-5-6) to provide both the production and leadership for this team to play its best moving into the most important part of the season.

St. Michael’s

Head coach Chris Davidson knew he had a lot of moving pieces entering the season with the need to replace significant offensive players that graduated as well as a goaltender who played virtually every game. At 2-7-0 at the break, the Purple Knights need to reverse their current stats of scoring just three goals per game and giving up four goals per game.

One key area to resolve the problem could be found on special teams where the power play is very good at 23% but the penalty kill gives it up at almost the same rate. Look for senior Dave Vorosilchak (0-9-9) to keep his team focused on playing well in the league having this team ready for the D-II tournament come March.

Castleton

Head coach Alex Todd has his work cut out for him with this team entering the new year and there is room for improvement in virtually every category. At 2-6-2, the Spartans have had trouble scoring goals while giving them up in bunches. They start a three game home stand this weekend so hopefully the dawn of a new year will bring a fresh focus to their game and a much more consistent effort.

Two areas that the Spartans need to stick to a resolution on will be better goaltending and vastly improved penalty kill efficiency. The PK unit has surrendered 20 goals of the 43 scored against the team so far this season. Goaltenders Seth McNary and Arthur Hollinger will need to step up as their team’s best penalty killers in the second half.

University of New England

Head coach Brad Holt’s Nor’easters are already ringing in the new year having won their first game of the season with a 2-1 win over Plymouth State last Saturday night. The first year varsity team has been competitive to date and comes to play every night but needs to find some offense and play better hockey in the third period where they have been outshot and outscored significantly by opponents to date.

Freshman goalie Dallas Ungurian (3.69 goals against average, .918 save percentage) has been a bright spot along with the team’s leading scorer Jack Nolin (2-3-5) but they will need the supporting cast to build off the experience of the first nine games and battle with the best that interlock play has to offer.

NESCAC

Williams

Undefeated in the conference and 6-0-1 overall, the Ephs are playing well and should be resolving to keep leading scorer Alex Smigelski (7-4-11) healthy for the remainder of the season. Head coach Bill Kangas’ team is doing it in all aspects of the game with great goaltending, a solid and maturing defensive unit and a very balanced offense.

If there is an area where the Ephs could improve it is the same spot where they have struggled the past couple of years — the man advantage. At just 14% the Williams power play unit has just five goals this season. Conversely, they have excelled on the penalty kill where they have surrendered just three goals through their first seven games. The first four games of 2010 are all against NESCAC opponents so Williams will have a great idea of where they stack up against the conference’s best.

Bowdoin

After opening 5-0, the Polar Bears ran into a hot Colby team who swept them in a home-and-home series just before the break. They beat Curry by a score of 6-4 on Wednesday night and start out 2010 at 6-2-0 overall. Two players who need to resolve to continue their excellent play to date are freshmen Daniel Weininger (7-4-11) and Robert Toczylowski (1-6-7). Senior Colin MacCormack (1-2-3) needs to resolve to contribute his consistent 20 points per season in support of the offense.

Last season the Polar Bears struggled to score. So far this season the output has been productive and the defensive end of the ice and goaltending tandem of Richard Nerland and Chris Rossi has been very consistent. Look for more from the supporting cast including junior defenseman Kyle Shearer-Hardy (4-6-10) in the second half.

Tufts

Head coach Brian Murphy has to be delighted with the first half of the season for his Jumbos who have ridden strong performances from sophomore goaltender Scott Barchard (2.23, .952) to a five game win streak ending 2009. While the offense could improve, the Jumbos are giving up very little based on good team defense and Barchard’s outstanding netminding.

Junior Tom Derosa (2-9-11) leads the team in scoring and will need some help for the rest of the forwards if Tufts wants to stay in the top half of the conference and fight for a home-ice berth in the playoffs.

Middlebury

Very quietly Bill Beaney’s squad has been playing some very good hockey including last weekend’s wins in the Middlebury Invitational that has them at 5-1-2 overall. The “French Connection” of Martin Drolet (7-11-18) and freshman Mathieu Dubuc (7-8 15) is leading the team offensively while sophomore transfer Nick Resor (4-1-5) seems to be finding his stride in the Panthers 3-2 system.

Beaney’s teams always have a resolution to be playing their best hockey at the right time of the season and the good start suggests they are headed in the right direction. If the goaltending of Max Kennedy and John Yanchek holds up, this team has the firepower to compete with anyone.

Colby

After starting out 0-2, the Mules have won seven in a row including the recent 5-3 win over Salem State to open 2010. As always coach Jim Tortorella’s teams are focused on a disciplined style with great goaltending and special teams leading the way. This year’s team is no exception as junior goaltender Cody McKinney (1.90, .937) is playing outstanding hockey to backstop the Mules through the first half.

Junior Wil Hartigan (6-6-12) leads the team and scoring and has five power-play goals for a unit that is successful 30% of the time. If the team’s new year’s resolution is to build on the last few weeks, the Mules will not only be back in the conference playoffs this season but will be making some noise in them as well.

Trinity

The Bantams are 1-1 in the new year and go on the road this weekend to face Skidmore and Castleton. Head coach Dave Cataruzolo’s team is still looking for consistency in front of junior goaltender Wes Vesprini (2.84, .919). Bigger offensive contributions will be needed from Paul Jaskot (1-3-4), Richard Hollstein (1-3-4) and sophomore defenseman Mike DeMayo (0-4-4).

One area where the Bantams can resolve to be improved in the second half is the special team units. While the penalty kill has given up 10 goals (over one-third of the total goals against) the power play unit has found the back of the net just six times so far this season. Trinity has always been a tough team and if the offense can get going they are sure to make second half difficult for their opponents.

Amherst

Last year’s conference champs have a lot of new players on the blueline but still have one of the nation’s best in goal in junior Cole Anderson (1.99, .912). This team doesn’t give up much and their special teams are among the best in the country so the formula that was so successful last year is continuing this season for the Lord Jeffs who are 2-0 in 2010 and headed to a challenging weekend on the road against Williams and Middlebury.

While overall scoring has been balanced with 14 players having tallied goals so far this season, look for captain Keith Nelson (1-6-7) to have a big second half in his role as an offensive regular as well as a key player on special teams.

Hamilton

After ending the semester break with two tough losses to Norwich and Oswego, the Continentals opened 2010 by winning the St. Michael’s Holiday Tournament last weekend with wins over Wentworth and Morrisville. This year’s team under second year coach Norm Bazin is already at 5-3-1 and looking to show their style to the rest of the league starting this weekend at Middlebury and Williams.

The Continentals need to make a resolution regarding their penalty kill and coming up with more consistent play from their goaltending tandem of Scott Heffernan and Calvin Bartel. Teams are connecting at a 26% success rate with the man advantage so Hamilton will need to tighten up their defensive zone on the penalty kill.

Wesleyan

After starting out at 1-4, the Cardinals have won three in a row including the championship of the Nichols New Year’s Tournament by defeating Lebanon Valley and Saint Mary’s. Chris Potter’s team will need to improve on their 1-3 league record as they head out back on the road this weekend to Skidmore and Castleton.

To keep their winning ways going, the Cardinals will need to get some point production beyond sophomore Tom Salah (6-3-9) and freshman John Guay (3-7-10) along with more consistent goaltending from Tim Archibald and Matt Hadge. This team has played seven freshmen regularly so the experience gained in the first half should help to make the Cardinals a more consistent squad in 2010.

Connecticut College

Of all the teams in the first half this may be the biggest surprise based on the players coming back this season. At 2-8, the Camels hope to build off an overtime win last weekend in the consolation game of the Oswego Pathfinder Classic where they defeated the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE), 2-1, on a goal by sophomore JJ McGregor.

The formula for this team’s New Year’s resolution is an easy one as having senior Greg parker between the pipes will always give your team a chance to win.

All the Camels need to do is leverage their offensive talent and improve on their two goal per game output to start turning some of the losses into wins. While sophomore Julien Boutet (4-2-6) has been a bright spot, seniors Brett Moore (0-2-2) and Trevor Bradley (3-2-5) will need to be bigger factors in the Camels’ offense. Improving on a 10% power play success rate will be a quick way to help remedy the offensive output. This team has talent and will be looking to the back half of the season to show everyone what they can really do.

I certainly hope that everyone enjoyed the holidays and will stick to their own personal new year resolutions. Personally, I am already down four pounds in the first week of my semi-annual diet so I remain cautiously optimistic that I can meet this year’s goal — emphasis on the ‘cautiously’. For local hockey teams the new year like the new season represents an opportunity to get better and prove they can be contenders come February and March.

For those of you not watching Frozen Fenway on Friday, make sure you follow your team as during break is when the teams need their fans most. Round two starts tonight!

Drop the puck!

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