Not rolling: Neumann struggles for consistency

Over the course of the last six weeks, Neumann has experienced the ups and downs that are college hockey. The Knights have been caught in the rut of inconsistency and their record shows it. The last eight games show a repeating pattern: loss/win/tie, loss/win/tie, loss/win.

Neumann started out the season 6-2-1, but hasn’t been able to string together two games in a row since then.

“We’ve struggled to grasp some momentum,” said Neumann coach Dominick Dawes. “Our first game back from Christmas, we played a pretty good game and a ton of chances, but couldn’t finish. The next night, we played Plattsburgh and we played as well as we have all year. We fell a little bit short.”

Neumann played in Plattsburgh’s Cardinal Classic tournament New Year’s weekend. The Knights tied New England College in the first round and advanced after winning a shootout. The next night, they fell to host Plattsburgh, 2-1.

“In Potsdam the next weekend, we controlled play considerably the first night, but the next night I thought we were going to play a lot better than we did,” continued Dawes. “We were a little bit too comfortable.”

Neumann beat Potsdam, 5-2, Friday night that weekend, but came back with a lackluster performance on Saturday and had to settle for a 3-3 tie.

The trend continued this past weekend at Morrisville, with a lackluster loss on Friday followed by an overtime victory on Saturday. Junior Brent Tamane was the hero on Saturday. He tied the game 3-3 late in the second period and then tallied the game-winner on a power play with 32 seconds remaining in overtime.

After transferring in from Bemidji, Tamane scored seven goals last year at Neumann. He has already tallied eight goals this season, including a pair of game winners.

“[Tamane] has done well,” said Dawes. “He had a pretty big weekend this past weekend. He is a tremendously gifted athlete and has stepped up when we have needed it.”

Freshman Michael Ray has also jumped right into the mix for Neumann. He leads the Knights in scoring with eight goals and 11 assists, scoring three game-winners. Ray played much of the first half of the season with linemates Jordan Zalba and Steve Gervais. Zalba and Gervais have both missed the last couple of games, but Ray continues to contribute.

“From day one, {Ray} has contributed,” said Dawes. “He jumped on a line and the three guys clicked right out of the gate. He has been a big part when we have done well.”

The Knights have been sharing time in net between juniors Ross MacKinnon and Matt Tendler. Each has put up impressive save percentages, and they have split the wins evenly for Neumann, but Tendler is unbeaten so far with a record of 5-0-2.

“They have been going back and forth since before Christmas,” said Dawes. “Matty [Tendler] stepped in to play Manhattanville in his first start of the year and played very well. For both of them, it has been trying to find a groove. The scores may not indicate it, but they were the backbone of our team this past weekend.”

Neumann jumps back into league play this weekend, hosting Manhattanville for a pair of games. The Knights soundly beat Manhattanville 5-1 in mid-November, scoring three goals in the first 11 minutes of the game.

Back to the grind
Every team but Hobart returns to league play this weekend after nearly two straight months of nonconference play. No team could establish an advantage in the league games back in November.

Every team came out of those games with at least two losses, resulting in a very tight set of standings. The only thing that was made clear was how close the ECAC West teams are matched this season and how well the staffs are able to prepare their teams for each opponent.

“It doesn’t get any better than that,” said Dawes. “We’ve all beaten each other already. Every game is going to be a tight battle, who shows up, wins in front of their own net, and buries a few.”

With only eight games remaining in the regular season, the race couldn’t be tighter. Elmira and Neumann are tied for first place with six points each. Both teams have played five league games and have 3-2 records.

Right on their heels are Hobart and Utica with four points and records of 2-2 after four games.

At the bottom of the standings is Manhattanville with a 1-3 league record.  he Valiants lost early season games to Elmira, Hobart, and Utica, but finished off a perfect 12-0-1 nonconference record last week.

The league has three teams included in this week’s USCHO poll: No. 5 Manhattanville, No. 10 Utica, and No. 14 Hobart. Neumann is also included in the “others receiving votes” category. While the poll is truly an “opinion” poll, it gives a bit of an indication how close the remainder of the season will be for the ECAC West.

ECAC West Weekly Awards
Player of the Week: Gregory Ciciola (Jr.) — Hobart. Ciciola registered a team-high seven points in the Statesmen’s two games last weekend. He tallied a goal and two assists in an 8-1 win over Curry on Saturday. On Sunday, Ciciola recorded two goals and two assists in a 7-2 victory at Nichols.

Goaltender of the Week: Darren MacDonald (So.) — Elmira. MacDonald earned two wins this week against SUNYAC competitors Fredonia and Geneseo. Against Fredonia, he made 27 saves in a 3-1 win and at Geneseo he made 35 saves in a close 4-3 victory.

Rookie of the Week:
Dylan Herold — Elmira. Herold scored his third goal of the season in a 4-3 win over the Knights of SUNY Geneseo. His goal came early in the third period which at the time tied the game at 3-3 and was the second of three straight EC goals.