Take a look at the calendars — it’s tourney time.
No, not that tourney time — we’ll have plenty of that come February, when the ECAC Northeast and MASCAC teams will be playing for conference championships and NCAA tournament berths.
However, if you take a look at the schedules for this weekend, you’ll see a few groupings of four at rinks around New England.
Worcester State will host the four-team Pepperidge Farms Tournament, while Fitchburg State will host the four-team Fitchburg Shootout.
Suffolk, in particular, is one of the ECAC Northeast teams that relies on early-season tournament play to help prepare for the rigors of the remainder of its 24-game regular-season schedule.
“We like to open the season in tournaments because it shows the guys right away the need to compete, and it gives them the chance to play for something,” Suffolk Coach Chris Glionna said. “We’re trying to set the tone right away.”
The Rams (2-0) opened the season by winning the Becker Ice Breaker tournament in Marlborough, Mass., with a 3-1 win Friday over Assumption and a 4-1 win Saturday over Becker. This weekend, the Rams get right back into tournament mode when they open the Pepperidge Farms Classic tournament at 4:30 p.m. Thursday against Worcester State.
The four-team Pepperidge Farms Classic also includes Johnson and Wales (2-0) and Western New England (0-1).
Fitchburg will face Southern New Hampshire at 8 p.m. Friday in the second game of its tournament, and will face either Franklin Pierce or Wentworth on Saturday.
Winning the Ice Breaker Tournament, however, proved some early-season truths to Glionna about his team. His top line was hit by injuries, forcing several of the younger players to contribute immediately — a baptism by fire, of sorts. In stepped sophomores Josh Goryl and Charlie McGinnis, who combined for a goal and five assists in Suffolk’s two tournament games.
Developing depth will be crucial this season, not just for Suffolk, but for any team.
“Teams start to rely on the top guys, and they need to show that everyone contributes,” Glionna said. “We’re only going to win when all four lines contribute.”
Suffolk went 2-5-1 in November of 2009; the Rams finished 12-11-3 that season. Last November, Suffolk went 4-5 in November, but finished 8-16.
“Two years ago, when we had a great season, we rolled four lines and had people step up every night,” Glionna said. “Last year, we didn’t.”
Refining that depth will be key for the Rams, who open their ECAC Northeast schedule Wednesday, November 16, at Johnson and Wales, then host conference opponent Salve Regina three days later (Saturday, Nov. 19).
“We’re trying to get the guys to understand that every game is important,” Glionna said. “Next week we have two league games, so how better to prepare for it than a tournament like this?
Time to rewind in the MASCAC and ECAC Northeast
One thing I’ll take a look at each week are numbers that jump out from each game.
Salem State 4, Wentworth 3: Kyle Phelan scored a pair of third-period goals to break a 2-2 tie and lift the Vikings to their first win of the season Monday in an ECAC Northeast-MASCAC crossover game, the season opener for both teams. Casey Shade scored two goals for Wentworth.
Number of note: Salem State and Wentworth went a combined 0-for-10 on the power play, with the Leopards finishing 0-for-6.
Westfield State 3, Nichols 3: Frank Zuccaro’s power-play goal with less than four minutes left in the second helped Westfield State (1-0-1) forge a tie at Nichols (0-0-1) in a crossover game.
Number of note: The most remarkable number out of this match-up? The fact that Westfield State goalie Eddie Davey made 49 saves.
Salve Regina 4, Franklin Pierce 2: Chad Goodwin had a goal and an assist for Salve Regina (1-1).
Number of note: Salve Regina won its first game since February 8, a 5-4 win at Stonehill.
New England College 4, Fitchburg State 2: Travis Bertolotti had a goal and an assist for Fitchburg State (0-1) in its season opener.
Number of note: Goalie Shawn Sirman, who played the past two years at Maine, made 25 saves for New England College.