ECAC West wrap: Feb. 28

And then there were two.  The top two seeds were victorious in the semifinal round of the ECAC West playoffs and have moved on to the championship game on Saturday night in Elmira.
Elmira defeated Hobart in rather convincing fashion, 5-2, on Saturday.  Soaring Eagles coach Aaron Saul left the team midweek to be with his brother Adrian, who also played four years at Elmira, who injured his neck while playing hockey in Germany.  Assistant coach Dean Jackson took the reigns and the players rallied around their missing coach.
“We played well for the 60 minutes,” said Jackson.  “Our guys were very focused and prepared heading into the game.  The guys didn’t want to let this game slip away knowing that coach Saul would want to come back and coach the following weekend.  We made a point as a team to get this win for Aaron and Adrian, so the guys were prepared.”
The second period was the turning point of the game, as the offenses kicked into high gear.  The Soaring Eagles were able to tally three goals in the stanza, and keep Hobart off the board, and that proved to be the difference.
“The second period was very even,” said Jackson.  “Hobart was pressing on us.  There was some time where we were struggling to get out of our zone.  We were fortunate enough to capitalize on our opportunities, which gave us some room to enter the third period feeling pretty confident.”
Trailing 4-0 entering the third period, Hobart became even more desperate and threw everything at Elmira.  The Statesmen outshot Elmira 16-7 in the final stanza and notched two goals in the middle of the period, but couldn’t pull any closer than the 5-2 final score.
“Hobart played a very strong game,” said Jackson.  “Goaltender Darren [McDonald] made some huge saves for us.  Hobart really stepped it up a couple notches in the third period.”
Neumann also won its semifinal game 5-2 over Utica, but it was a much more back-and-forth type game.  Each team scored a goal in the first period before the Knights ripped in a pair of power-play goals in the second period to take control.
Special teams were truly special for Neumann, as the Knights went two-for-eight on their power plays while killing off all nine Utica power plays, including killing off three five-on-three advantages.
“Special teams had a major impact on the outcome of the game,” said Neumann coach Dominick Dawes.  “Our penalty killing guys especially stepped up and killed off some big penalties.  Our power play buried a few too.”
Utica trailed by only a goal heading into the third period, but Neumann held on, scoring a pair of goals late in the game to finish off the Pioneers 5-2.