ECAC East/NESCAC wrap: Jan.16

Bendel Backs Beacons
The last of the unbeaten teams has gone by the wayside as of Saturday night. Call it what you want, a trap game, a Fenway Park hangover or what it was, a good hockey game with great goaltending for the Massachusetts-Boston team that held on to a 2-1 win on Saturday against Norwich. Why do I think it was the last of the list? Here are some stats.
Norwich clearly carried the play, outshooting the Beacons 40-16 for the game. The two Beacons’ goals came midway through the first period, with one on a power play, so it isn’t like they surprised the Cadets out of the gate. Norwich was 0-6 with the man advantage,  not a percentage you see a lot from the Cadets, but Kevin Bendel’s goaltending probably had something to do with that. Unfortunately for Bendel, the Cadets did break through in the final minute of regulation with an extra-attacker goal to ruin his shutout, but still, it was a much-deserved win for the Beacons, who survived a second period that saw them outshot 18-2 and kill four power plays for the Cadets. It’s clearly a case of a great team getting upended by a good team, and we have seen a lot of that all season, and to be sure will see more in the remaining schedule.
Cardinals crush Panthers
I learned my lesson in not picking against Bob Emery’s troops this week, but even I am surprised that they put a whooping on Middlebury on the road by a 7-0 score. The Cardinals scored even-strength, on a power play, and short-handed against Middlebury, which used all three of its goaltenders in the loss. While the shots were fairly even at 27-25 for the visitors, Plattsburgh finished strong and took the complete road win. A 3-3 tie with Williams in its second game of the weekend gave the Cardinals a 1-0-1 record against two of the top teams in NESCAC, and that should translate into some national poll votes this week.
A Point is a point
For the Southern Maine Huskies, the climb up the league standings is literally coming a point at a time. This week saw the Huskies go 0-0-2 on the road against New England College and St. Anselm’s, with scores of 2-2 and 4-4 respectively. The difficult part for coach Jeff Beaney has to be the fact that they surrendered third period leads and had to settle for ties in both contests. While NEC scored just three minutes into the final frame for the equalizer, St. A’s scored yet another extra-attacker goal this season and tied the score at four with just six seconds remaining in regulation. Those are tough points to give away, especially on the road, but it doesn’t take away from the overall competitiveness the Huskies are showing, where they now sit in a tie for fourth place in the conference and the final home-ice playoff berth.
NESCAC firepower
For both Amherst and Bowdoin (alphabetic listings always preferred by the conference), this week’s 10-goal production saw Amherst collect four points on the road and Bowdoin collect three of four with a win and a tie. While the second of the weekend games was close for both squads in terms of coming away with points, you have to believe that a five-goal-per-game scoring average is going to net out some wins for you. Amherst’s 7-1 win over Tufts was a bit surprising in that the Lord Jeffs pounded one of the league’s best goaltenders in Scott Barchard, chasing him from the game in the third period following their fourth goal of the game. For Bowdoin, its offense has come to life the past two weeks, and the 6-2 win over a hot Wesleyan team showed off a relentless attack of nearly 50 shots in the game, but timely scoring as it broke open a 2-2 game in the third period with four unanswered goals. Look for both of these teams to try and create some distance from the pack in upcoming weeks.
Things are tight in both conferences, particularly at the top, and as we saw this weekend, any team can knock off one of the top schools. The overall level of play is heating up in January, so expect your team to step it up or start looking down — at the standings that is.
Upsets are the new norm — drop the puck!