ECAC East/NESCAC Weekend Recap – December 7, 2010

I am finding the teams in the conferences have the same issue as I do so far this season. Case in point, picking 10 games on Friday night I go 3-6-1 while picking 10 games on Saturday, I go 6-3-1. And if I had just reversed a couple of the split weekend picks I had made for teams, I would have fared a lot better – not to mention those teams would have also. What’s the point you ask?

The point is that the season is off to the most competitive one in years with weekend splits abounding and very few teams able to find the magic for a 2-0 weekend. Just to be clear this is not about parity in a diluted talent sense at all. This is about a very high level of play across the twenty teams in both conferences so use any cliche you like – there are no 2-point gimmes any weekend against virtually everybody on the schedule.

This past weekend only 3 teams swept both ends of the weekend – Williams, Babson and Tufts.  Four other teams finished with a win and a tie in taking three of four points – Skidmore, Colby, Norwich and Amherst.  That means a lot of weekend splits and/or winless weekends which can’t help in the standings or confidence on the ice.

So speaking of confidence, let’s take a look on the Who’s Hot, Who’s Not list for the weekend.

Without question the Williams Ephs are hot and on a roll this season. At 6-0-1 overall and 4-0-0 in the conference the Ephs went to Maine and dominated UNE and Southern Maine in two victories that saw them outscore their opponents by a 13-1 margin. That’s dominating on both ends of the ice and it starts in goal with junior Ryan Purdy.

Purdy has played all seven games for Williams and has posted some ridiculous, Tim Thomas-like numbers at the beginning of the season. He is 6-0-1 with a 0.99 GAA and .958 save percentage – those numbers will keep any team in games and give them a chance to win every night.

However, it’s not like the GAA for the team needs to be under one to win games. So far this season the Ephs are averaging five goals per game. they have seventeen players having scored at least one point including Purdy, and have four players with double digit points just seven games into the season. What that means is depth and if you stop John Wickman or Ben Contini then Connor Olvany or Matt Masucci and others will light the lamp – Williams has balance, depth and a great knack for not hurting themselves by making many mistakes.

So far this season, the offense ranks third in goals, the defense first in goals against and first in scoring margin despite going just under 13% with the man advantage. All of these things bode well for Williams heading into the semester break with a final game this Sunday at home against Nichols.

On the Who’s Not Hot front, it would be difficult to not talk about UNE at just 1-5-0 and 0-4-0 in the conference but they are just a second year team and while expectations are for a more competitive team, the Nor’easters are not among the league’s best just yet. No, the greater surprise is found in the defending NESCAC champions from Middlebury who are off to a less than stellar 2-4 start this season including being swept at home to start the season by Tufts and Conn College.

The Panthers have scored just 15 goals in their first 6 games this season. they have scored three or less goals in every game this season and have been shutout twice against Tufts and Norwich in the opening round of the Primelink Tournament.

Returning goalie John Yanchek along with freshman Nick BonDurant have played pretty well in yielding just 10 goals against but the offense has sputtered early which is very surprising considering the returning group of players.

Granted several players have missed games early in the season but it’s hard to believe that Martin Drolet, Matthieu Dubuc, Nick Resor, Ken Suchoski and Bryan Curran have a combined line of 1 goal and three assists in the first six games. It probably has a bearing on why the Panthers, normally a prolific power play unit, is connecting on just a 16% success rate so far this season.

The goal drought is not for a lack of effort as the Panthers out-shoot the opposition in each period so far this season and have a commanding 211 to 128 edge in shots on goals vs. the opposition.  While the Panthers are in the black for goals in both the first and second periods against the opposition, they are a -4 in the third period which also includes three empty net goals in the first six games.  This team has too much firepower to not see some offensive success soon so look for the power outage to be fixed after the holidays.

The Panthers are done until after the semester break which means they have a lot of time to regroup starting with the Middlebury Holiday Classic on January 1, 2011. One New Year’s resolution for Bill Beaney’s team will surely be to see more red lights going on above the opposition goal.