This Week in Women’s D-III: January 15, 2010

Holy Trinity!

The Trinity Bantams have been turning heads recently with their seven-game winning streak. They are a quiet 10-1-2 on the season with their only loss coming at the hands of the defending national champions, Amherst, 3-2.

“We haven’t really thought much about the winning streak,” Trinity coach Andrew McPhee said. “I know its cliché, but we’re really just taking each game one at time and looking at the next team on our schedule all through the season so far.”

The Bantams won the Codfish Bowl with wins over Bowdoin and UMass-Boston, and they just completed a three-game, five-night swing taking down Middlebury, Williams, and previously unbeaten D-I Holy Cross.

“Middlebury was a big win for the program,” McPhee said. “Whenever we have a chance to play them we get extremely excited because they’ve been at the top of our league for so long. That was significant because it took us 21 times just to get them once. Holy Cross we bared down and came back. We didn’t play our best in the first period but we turned things around over the next 40 minutes and scored four unanswered goals.”

McPhee said that although the Bantams have been having a lot of success this season taking three out of a possible six points so far from Amherst and Middlebury, they are still concentrating on their league rather than worrying about where they stack up nationally.

“We are just trying to do the best we can in our league and get to the next step there before we worry about where that puts us with the rest of the nation,” McPhee said. Having teams like Middlebury and Amherst in our conference are a big enough challenge to try and overcome first before we worry about the national picture.”

Trinity has seven players with three or more goals on the season as well as possible the nation’s best goaltender in senior Isabel Iwachiw still tending the pipes for the Bantams.

“This year the leadership has been great and we’ve had a lot of depth on offense and getting goals from a lot of different players,” McPhee said. “Everything looks really good when you have Isabel in net to erase mistakes. She is playing unbelievable and she amazes us pretty much every game. The Amherst tie was one of the finest goaltending performances I’ve ever seen.”
Trinity is ranked fifth in the latest USCHO.com poll with 75 points tying them with Wis.-River Falls. Fifth is the highest the Trinity women’s hockey program has ever been ranked in the USCHO poll.

The Bantams return to the ice Friday at 4 p.m. when they travel to Wesleyan looking to extend the nation’s longest winning streak to eight games.

Gustvaus Adolphus Surging

Okay, did we all really think that Gustavus Adolphus was just going to disappear this season into a middle of the road MIAC team after they’ve dominated the conference the whole decade?

I was beginning to have thoughts myself after Gustavus struggled through the first half of the season to a 3-3-1 record. However, that’s nothing a little trip to Europe can’t cure as Gustavus has won two straight games against NCHA powerhouses Wis.-Stevens Point (2-0) and Wis.-River Falls (2-1) to kick off its second half with a bang.

“We’ve been trying to rely on our upperclassmen early and quite frankly we expected more out of them earlier in the season,” Gustavus Adolphus coach Mike Carroll said. “We just got back from Europe and I think being away with the team for nine days, you’re bound to become closer and I think we have. It’s nice to see the results on the ice and we’re hoping to keep working and down at the end the season we’re playing our best hockey.”

To be fair, the Gusties have faced a pretty tough schedule so far this season with six games already against the likes of Wis.-River Falls (2), St. Thomas (2), Wis.-Superior, and Wis.-Stevens Point. They currently sit at 5-3-2 overall and 3-2-1 in MIAC play.

“We had a pretty tough schedule to start the season,” Carroll said. “We like to make our non-conference schedule as tough as it can be and with the luck of the draw this season we played three straight series against playoff teams from our conference last season.”

Even though Gustavus Adolphus has been associated with losing their first game of the season and then going on a long winning streak until falling short in the NCAA’s, Carroll said this season has been a learning experience for the Gusties.

“We’re taking the attitude that you can learn just as much from losing if not more than you can from winning,” Carroll said. “But, we do have some younger players that are playing major roles on our team. We have five freshmen that are playing regularly on the penalty kill, power play and our top lines and it just takes time for any team to gel with a lot of new players.”

One of the main sources of the Gusties’ struggles in the first half of the season came from lack of goal scoring. Gustavus Adolphus has scored more than three goals in a game just once this season in 10 games so far.

“All coaches would want their teams to be able to score more,” Carroll said. “We’ve been working hard on that in practice but things happen for a reason. We think that all the close games before the holidays and continue now have helped our team get better. I’m more happy with the fact we don’t give up a lot of goals.

“We have some kids who have the ability to play at a high level and they haven’t so far on a consistent basis. I’ve been switching lines left and right so in their defense its hard for them to get used to playing with a set line and develop chemistry. We sort of do that for a reason because we want them to be able to play with anyone. I think now they’ll be able to feed off each other now and play more as a unit rather than trying to find our way like we were earlier in the season.”

Carroll said his biggest concern is for the Gusties to keep a strong work ethic throughout the remainder of the season and if they do, he said he thinks they’ll be there in the end.

“The biggest on-going concern I have is our team taking every day of practice serious and then showing up and playing hard in the games,” he said. “We’re going to make mistakes, every team does, but if we work hard I don’t see us losing many games down the stretch.”

On paper, the Gustavus Adolphus goaltending statistics look pretty good. Danielle Justice has a 1.56 GGA and a .903 save percentage, while Emily Klatt has a 1.61 GGA and a .910 save percentage. However, the Gusties’ goaltenders haven’t been making the big stops like they were last year according to Carroll.

“We had expected them to be able to step up a little bit more now as sophomore,” Carroll said. “You need the whole team to be able to keep the puck out of the net though. They’ll be the first to admit they’ve giving up some soft goals this year. Our shot on goal averages and what we give up have been about the same this season but when your goalie is seeing 15 shots a game, they’ve got to make a big save once in awhile or it’s a big momentum swing the other way.

“They both played really well against Wis.-River Falls and Wis.-Stevens Point and that’s been a good sign for us and a big lift because every team needs good goaltending.”

SUNY Potsdam: A glance at a second-year program

Last year the SUNY Potsdam Bears played their first NCAA D-III varsity season and finished with a 4-17-2 record. They took their lumps in the tough ECAC West with established powers Elmira, Plattsburgh, and R.I.T. dominating the top.
However, the Bears were competitive with the bottom half of the conference and this season they are positioning themselves with a chance to have a shot at the ECAC West playoffs.

Buffalo State and Oswego currently sit in the fifth and sixth spots with six points each. Neumann is seventh with five points and Cortland and Potsdam are tied for eighth with four points each.

More than likely Neumann will wind up with the fifth spot and then once again it will be up the remaining four teams to battle it out for the sixth and final spot.

Potsdam is 5-6-1 so far this season and 2-5 in the ECAC West.

“We’re a little stronger talent wise this season with everyone having another season under their belt,” Potsdam coach Jay Green said. “Depth wise we’re not where we had hoped to be as a couple kids didn’t return this season but we’re really happy where we’re at winning five games already for sure.”

Although having one more win than they did all of last season already, the Bears have been most focused on improving their offensive output and their defensive numbers this season.

“We’re 10 goals ahead of where we were at this point last season so that’s encouraging and if you take away the 17-1 R.I.T. thrashing we’re ahead of where we were defensively last year too,” Green said.

Potsdam also has three players committed for next season already that Green said he has high hopes for in continuing to improve the program.
“We already have three players coming in next season that are better than everyone we have at this time so that’s definitely a plus,” Green said. “We just have a few more to get that’s all.”

Potsdam had arguably its best weekend in the program’s short history this past weekend when the Bears won the Rutland-Herald Tournament hosted by Castleton.
Potsdam tied Adrian officially 2-2 but won in a shootout to advance to the next round where they met fellow ECAC West rival Oswego in the finals. Potsdam downed the Lakers 2-1 and claimed the tournament championship when most probably figured they were the least likely to win the title.

“Against Adrian we were very fortunate to pull off the win (Potsdam won in the shootout but the game went into the record book as a tie) because they outplayed us a majority of the game,” Green said. “These are the games you learn how to win if you want to be a playoff team. Our freshman goaltender Jen Conophy played tremendous for us and made 57 saves to keep us in it.

“In the six games we’ve played against Oswego, they’ve all been very close hard fought games. There’s no question that’s the rivalry for us. It’s not a bitter blood rivalry or anything but just good up and down hockey on both sides. It’s a nice teaching moment for us as coaches when the games are close. There’s a little bit of stress but there’s no question confidence wise we’re feeling good about ourselves heading into a big weekend with Cortland.”

Around the Country

As far as other games around the country this weekend, the two match-ups I’m keeping my eye on are the obvious NESCAC showdown with Amherst traveling to Middlebury for a pair of games.

Also, Norwich gets its chance at revenge on Friday when they take on Manhattanville. The Cadets will be looking to avenge the 7-0 drubbing they received last time from the Valiants.

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