Upperclassmen post big numbers in ECAC West

One of the most interesting aspects of college hockey is the continual renewal of talented players as they enter as freshmen and leave as seniors (mostly). Watching players develop their hockey skills from year to year, and grow as people as well, is a major reason that there are so many fans of this game.

This season, as happens every year, many players have stepped up their game, already equaling or exceeding their statistics from previous years even though the season is only a little more than halfway through. Let’s take a tour around the ECAC West and see which players are leading the way.

Utica has a trio of sophomores that show no signs of a second year slump. Leading the way is Trever Hertz, who sits atop the league in goals, assists, and points-per-game. Hertz has scored 10 goals and 15 assists in 15 games this season, exceeding his points tally through 26 games last year of 11 goals and 10 assists.

Along with Hertz, classmates Adam Gaff and Jon Gaffney are having a strong second year. Gaff has chipped in five goals and 10 assists so far, much stronger than his four goals and five assists last year.

Gaffney is also having a successful year with eight goals and four assists as he nears his numbers from last year of 11 goals and 12 assists.

Hertz and Gaffney have also scored both of Utica’s short-handed goals this season.

Brendan Turner only played in a single game his freshman year at Manhattanville. Last season, Turner saw regular action in 23 contests and tallied three goals and five assists. This year, the now-junior has stepped to the top of the Valiants scoring charts, leading the team with seven goals and adding five assists. Turner is also providing offense on both special teams units, notching two power-play goals and throwing in a short-hander.

Sophomore Luc Van Natter’s name has also been scattered all over the Manhattanville score sheets. He has scored six goals and four assists this year, almost equaling his full year tally of six goals and five assists during his first year of play.

With the most experienced team in the ECAC West, you would expect to see Neumann led by upperclassmen, and you would be right, as there is only one sophomore (Michael Rey) in the top five scorers.

Senior Cory Park is finishing off his college career in strong fashion with eight goals and seven assists. The eight goals ties him for the team lead and adds to his career totals through his first three seasons of 24 goals and 22 assists. His six power-play goals tie him for leading the league in that category.

Joining Park in breakout seasons are three juniors for the Knights. Andrew Love and Steve Gervais each have scored seven goals so far this season. Love tallied seven goals during his first two seasons and Gervais notched 10, so each is adding much more production this season.

Junior Jordan Zalba leads Neumann in points with eight goals and eight assists, adding to his 14 goals and 25 assists from previous years. Five of Zalba’s goals have come on the power play, placing him third in the league.

Unlike the rest of the ECAC West, Hobart’s breakout players this season are a blueliner and a goaltender.

Perhaps the most important player to step up this season has been junior netminder Marty Ausserhofer. When fellow junior Nick Broadwater went down with an injury against Babson in November, Ausserhofer had to jump into the starting role, despite having only played in nine games during his first two seasons. Since then, he has amassed a 5-2 record, with a .926 save percentage and 1.80 goals against average to lead the ECAC West netminders.

While Brad Richard has always been a rock solid defenseman, he has added a scoring touch to his game this season. Richard has tallied five goals, including two on the power play, nearly surpassing the seven goals scored during his first two seasons.

Scoring has not come easy for Elmira this year. The Soaring Eagles are averaging nearly three quarters of a goal less per game, and are at the bottom of the pack in league offense.

One player who has been holding up his part of the goal bargain this year is senior Kevin Willer, who has netted 10 goals and 10 assists so far. Willer led Elmira and the league with 17 goals last year after throwing in 15 his sophomore year. Six of Willer’s scores have come on the power play, equaling his total from last year.

So there is a quick rundown of 11 players around the league that have stepped up their game this season. As we set up for the final six weeks of the regular season, each team will need these players to continue on their torrid pace.

ECAC West Weekly Awards

Player of the Week: Trever Hertz, So., Utica. Hertz had a huge week for the Pioneers, recording eight points on two goals and six assists to help lead Utica to a 3-1 record since returning from the holiday break. Against Babson, the sophomore scored a goal and added two assists in a 6-2 win, followed by a one-goal, three-assist performance in a 7-3 win over Curry.

Goaltender of the Week: Ross MacKinnon, Sr., Neumann. MacKinnon made 32 saves against No. 2 Oswego, picking up the 3-0 shutout win over one of the top teams in the nation. The senior then had five saves in an exhibition game against Penn State, followed by a 24-save performance in a 4-2 Knights win over Brockport.

Rookie of the Week: Tommaso Traversa, Hobart. Leading the ECAC West in freshman scoring, Traversa netted three goals and added an assist in a 2-0 weekend for the Statesmen. The first-year product from Italy scored a third-period hat trick in a 5-2 win over Curry on Friday. Traversa added an assist in Hobart’s victory over Brockport, 4-2, on Saturday.