Toughest tournament

Elmira played in arguably the most difficult tournament of the season after turkey day, the Primelink hosted by Middlebury this year.  Entering the weekend, the tournament was made up of No. 1 Norwich, No. 6 Plattsburgh, No. 10 Elmira and No. 11 Middlebury.  Tough competition indeed.

“It was fun getting a chance to play those teams that we don’t often get to play,” said Elmira coach Aaron Saul. “The way it worked out this year with the four teams in the top eleven in the country was great.”

The Soaring Eagles opened up against Middlebury and scored three goals across a 1:45 span midway through the first period to jump into the lead, but the Panthers battled back with a goal six minutes later in the first period and again early in the second.

“Our guys were excited to play and took advantage of our momentum early,” said Saul. “Middlebury bounced back. We knew they weren’t going to sit back and wait. We got in some penalty trouble in the third period.”

Elmira took a pair of penalties early in the third period and Middlebury poured on the pressure. Compounding the problems for the Soaring Eagles was an equipment issue for starting goaltender Darren McDonald. A lace that holds one of the leg pads near the toe had broken, and he was tripping on it as Elmira was trying to kill off the first of the two penalties. When the second penalty got called, a fix was attempted.

“Coach Beaney called a timeout, so we had Darren skate to the bench to fix it with tape,” said Saul. “I called a timeout right after that, but it still wasn’t enough.”

Freshman goaltender Ryan deMelo skated to the net and helped kill off the two-man Middlebury power play.

“deMelo made two very fine stops,” said Saul. “He is a confident kid in his own abilities. He is definitely a talented goaltender who is making himself better.”

Elmira killed off the remainder of the penalty and held on for the 3-2 victory, moving on to take on Norwich in the championship game Saturday. Darcy Vaillancourt got Elmira on the board just 41 seconds into the contest, but a series of penalties midway through the first period led to Norwich scoring three straight goals to take control.

“The penalties that were taken were our own fault,” said Saul. “Norwich is a great team with a great power play. When you take dumb penalties like that, those are always the ones that seem to get you. They took full advantage of that.”

Elmira poured 21 shots on net over the final two periods, but couldn’t tie the game, eventually losing 5-2.

The tournament highlighted the difficult schedule Elmira has played through. During the first eight games of the season, every opponent has been either ranked in the USCHO poll or receiving votes, including three games against No. 1 teams.

An official RPI hasn’t been published yet, but I am hard pressed to find another Division III team with a schedule anywhere near as difficult.

“Pretty much every year we are up there,” said Saul. “There is no let up in our schedule. That is by design. We want to play the best teams to get there at the end. That is the way we feel as a coaching staff. It is a great learning tool when we watch video.  We want the challenge.”

Tournament for a cause
Hobart played in the inaugural Cape Code Lighthouse College Hockey Invitational Tournament over the weekend. The tournament was put together to raise money for Donate Life, an organization dedicated to raising money and awareness for organ donation.  Hobart, Babson, Amherst, and Salem State sold T-shirts and wore special jerseys to help out.

“Eddie Gallagher did a great job putting it together, and the Hyannis Center did a wonderful job hosting,” said Hobart coach Mark Taylor. “Jamie Rice at Babson called and asked if we wanted to be involved in a tournament with the proceeds going to Donate Life, something that can change someone’s life, and it was an easy yes.”

Hobart faced Babson in the first round and quickly fell behind by two goals just eight minutes into the game. Then starting goaltender Nick Broadwater went down with an injury and the cards were stacked against the Statesmen.

“I don’t think we came out of the gate like we should have,” said Taylor. “We had to persevere a bit.”

Tommy Fiorentino scored at the 14-minute mark of the first period to steady the team. It was the first of three goals in the game for Fiorentino, the sophomore’s first career hat trick, and Hobart edged out a hard-fought 5-3 victory..

“It was nice to see him get rewarded,” said Taylor. “He brings the same energy to all of the games that he has played since being a freshman. He is maturing within the game.”

The Statesmen faced Amherst in the championship game, a team that plays a similar style as Hobart. Greg Ciciola tallied just 24 seconds into the game as Hobart started out much better. Amherst answered back early in the second period, but Hobart rallied for a 3-1 victory to win the tournament.

“Good hockey game back and forth,” said Taylor. “We had some good success getting in their zone and putting some pressure on. Neither team was giving up much until the pucks got into their zone. There weren’t any breakaways in the game.”

Goaltender Marty Ausserhofer, who came in as relief against Babson and played the full game against Amherst, was named the tournament MVP after stopping 40 of the 42 shots he faced.

“He is A+ as a teammate,” said Taylor. “He has persevered behind Broadwater. He got the opportunity to show what he can do and did it.”

Tournament organizer Eddie Gallagher’s brother Tim, a three-time organ transplant recipient, presented the championship trophy to Hobart captains Greg Ciciola and Brad Richard, but the captains handed it back to Tim as a representative of all organ recipients, the true winners of the tournament.

“We thought wouldn’t it be nice to give the trophy to someone who has had multiple transplants,” said Taylor. “His fight is a lot more than a few hockey games. He said he would rather see it in a school’s trophy case rather than in his house, so we brought it home, but it exposed us to how real the Donate Life program is. It is pretty simple for everyone to check it off on their driver’s license and change someone’s life.”

“It is hard to explain how great this past weekend was,” said Eddie Gallagher. “These schools pulled together to help out a cause. The class shown by all the teams was amazing.”

ECAC West Weekly Awards:
Player of the Week: Tommy Fiorentino (So.),  Hobart. Fiorentino recorded a hat trick to lead Hobart to a 5-3 comeback win over Babson in a first-round game at the 2011 Cape Cod Lighthouse Invitational. Fiorentino was named to the all-tournament team.

Goaltender of the Week: Marty Ausserhofer (Jr.), Hobart. Ausserhofer earned two wins by posting a 1.11 goals-against average and a .952 save percentage over the weekend. He was named the 2011 Cape Cod Lighthouse Invitational MVP. He came in to play the last 48:19, and stopped 16 shots while allowing one goal in a 5-3 win over Babson. Ausserhofer played all 60 minutes and made 24 saves in a 3-1 victory over Amherst.

Rookie of the Week: Bronson Kovacs, Hobart. Kovacs tallied three points in a 2-0 weekend for the Statesmen. He scored the game-winning goal and added two assists in a 5-3 victory over Babson on Saturday. Kovacs joined Fiorentino and Ausserhofer on the 2011 Cape Cod Lighthouse College Hockey Invitational All-Tournament team.

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