Neumann came back from the holiday break quickly, winning the Pathfinder Bank Oswego Classic tournament last weekend. The Knights started the tournament with a 5-3 win over Hamline.
The traditional style of hockey for teams from the western leagues like the Pipers, who play in the MIAC, is a more physical game emphasizing skill and brute force at times to swamp eastern teams when they meet, but Hamline broke that mold a bit and Neumann had to adjust.
“Historically, there has been some of that, but Hamline didn’t play a typical western style,” said Neumann coach Dominick Dawes. “They stretched a guy the whole game. It was almost like playing the NESCAC programs.”
It was a nip and tuck game until Cory Park tallied for the Knights with three minutes remaining to give Neumann the final lead. Andrew Love chipped in an empty-netter to seal the victory.
Love, a junior, has had quite a season to date. He scored six goals his freshman year, but only tallied a single score last year. So far, he has scored six goals already this year and is tied for the third most goals on the team.
“He was able to contribute early this season and has some confidence,” said Dawes. “He has found a line that he is comfortable in. They are a blue collar, hard working group. With him, the big thing is having the confidence back.”
Neumann shutout Oswego 3-0 in the championship game to earn the tournament trophy. The Knights went two-for-eight on the power play during the game, highlighting a special teams unit that is clicking at a 30 percent success rate.
“Special teams are something that we have always focused on,” said Dawes. “The power play has been clicking and is a big part of the offense. Guys are moving the puck, making plays, and it has a lot to do with being successful.”
Oswego lost its composure in the third period, taking 56 minutes of penalties and that helped Neumann roll to victory.
On Wednesday, Neumann continued its busy week by playing as part of the NHL Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. The Knights faced off against Penn State’s club team, which is the top-ranked team in ACHA Division I and is making the transition to varsity next season.
The teams got to play on the outdoor ice surface set up in the center of the Phillies baseball field as part of the NHL’s event.
“The Flyers, Comcast, NHL and Phillies all ran it first class,” said Dawes. “It is not something everything gets to do. We wanted to keep it simple and make everyone a part of the experience.”
Jordan Zalba scored a pair of goals, leading the way for Neumann, as the Knights led start to finish and beat Penn State, 6-3.
“Every aspect of it was unbelievable,” said Dawes. “It was such a great opportunity for not only the guys, but for the university. I can’t say enough about it. The snow started to fall midway through the third period. Everything was perfect.”
Neumann is in the middle of a stretch of eight straight nonconference games. The Knights are a perfect 7-0 so far in nonconference play, and are building a strong list of wins toward an NCAA Pool C bid with just seven weeks left in the regular season.
“We need to make sure every night that we are trying to build our resume,” said Dawes. “Nonconference is as important as, if not more important than, the conference stuff. We don’t control our own destiny. We have to put ourselves in a position so that at the end of the day we are there.”
The at-large Pool C bid is the only way that the ECAC West teams can get invited to the NCAA tournament this season, so every team is paying close attention to every game.
Each of the ECAC West teams is involved in community projects throughout not only the hockey season, but the entire year. Two such events occurred right before the holidays, providing a little holiday cheer and support for those less fortunate.
Hobart’s Hockey Helpers, begun by Ryan Adler in 2007, began a new ongoing partnership with Project Eye-to-Eye. They will sell hockey sweatshirts to benefit the charity, which is a national mentoring program pairing children with learning disabilities with similarly-challenged college students.
“I’m very excited to begin a partnership with Project Eye-to-Eye,” said Hobart coach Mark Taylor. “This organization is doing great work here on our campus and in our community. All children deserve the chance to be excited to learn, whether it be in an academic or athletic environment, and Project Eye-to-Eye is helping to make that happen.”
Utica held its seventh annual Teddy Bear toss in mid-December as well. The Pioneers sold out The Aud, for the first time ever, and more than 4,500 stuffed animals rained down on the ice after Ridge Garbutt scored the first goal of the game late in the opening period.
Utica has collected over 15,000 teddy bears over the last seven seasons for distribution to local children throughout the Mohawk Valley.
This year’s toss was featured on CNN, and the video provided by the school can be seen HERE.
Utica players and coaches also participated in four other charity events throughout December, including a food drive, Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign, and a skate with BOCES students.