Tale of Two Games

It was the tale of two games for Manhattanville last weekend, as the Valiants played Utica in a home-and-home series.  Friday’s game was very even through two periods before Manhattanville exploded for three goals in a 3:20 span to open the third.

“As the game went along we got better and better and better,” said Manhattanville coach Eric Lang.

Freshman phenom Mark Rivera assisted on the game-winning goal, scored the third goal in the string, and added an empty-netter late in the game. Those feats earned Rivera his second straight ECAC West Rookie of the Week award.

Rivera leads all freshmen in goals and assists, and is tied for 17th in overall league scoring.

“Mark Rivera has scored some breathtaking goals this year,” said Lang. “He is a special player.”

Saturday was Senior Night at Manhattanville, as the Valiants played their final home game of the regular season. The emotion of the night proved to be too much of a distraction for the players, as Utica thumped the Valiants 9-3. The Pioneers scored a power-play, a short-handed, and three even-strength goals in the second period on the way to the win.

“Utica was the hungrier team on Saturday,” said Lang.

Pierre-Olivier Lemieux has been stellar in net for Manhattanville all season long, playing in all but one game this season, and has played nearly 300 minutes more than any other goaltender in the league. After Utica’s second period goal explosion, most coaches might have switched netminders to get their starter out of the situation. Coach Lang thought about it, but left Lemieux in the game.

“Pierre has been very good for us, All-American caliber, all year long, but wasn’t on Saturday,” said Lang. “It was Senior Night and he had a lot of family members there. He has earned the right to try and battle through that. I told him after the game let’s just throw that out and get ready for the stretch run.”

Brendan Turner scored a goal and added an assist in Saturday’s losing effort for Manhattanville, and is having a terrific season.  After scoring three goals in 23 games last season, the junior has notched 11 tallies this year and is tied for third in the league.

“We are built for the transition, and he is a guy that is very good at the transition,” said Lang. “He is one of the fastest guys in the conference, and is getting a lot of stuff off the rush. He has been opportunistic.”

Coach Lang put Turner, Rivera, and sophomore Luc Van Natter together on a line in early January, and the move has been paying big dividends for the Valiants. The trio has combined for 14 goals over the last 11 games.

“Those are the most exciting guys in the whole league,” said Lang. “They are three guys that play the same way and are built to transition. They all skate and can make you miss. It has been exciting to watch them together. They have a knack for knowing where each other are.”

Manhattanville finishes off its nonconference schedule this weekend at SUNY-Morrisville, as it tries to polish up its NCAA resume. Doubts linger in the back of the mind of each team in the ECAC West, as they try to guess at how the NCAA will handle the Pool C selection process.

“We have had a great second semester here and want to keep playing,” said Lang. “We are relatively healthy. We have a three-game season left, and have to put ourselves in the conversation to be one of the teams in the NCAA tournament. Of course I am biased, but if they keep an ECAC West team out, it would be a shame.”

Wounded Warrior Extravaganza
In 2007, Ryan Adler founded the Hockey Helpers organization while playing at Hobart. Soon after, he partnered with the Wounded Warrior Project to help raise awareness and funds for soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Hobart designed camouflaged jerseys and auctioned them off to raise funds.

In the years since, the cause has been taken up by many teams across college hockey, at other levels of hockey, and even across other sports.

“We have wanted to get other programs involved since Ryan Adler started it, and not just college hockey teams,” said Hobart coach Mark Taylor. “Midget teams, junior teams, everyone is getting involved. We are trying to grow it.”

Ryan Adler is still working with Wounded Warriors to grow the awareness with other hockey programs. The initiative has expanded to include Football Helpers, Lacrosse Helpers, Basketball Helpers and Golf Helpers.

“When we started this thing, Wounded Warriors was trying to get publicity for their program,” said Taylor. “Now it has grown to where big corporations are sponsoring things as well. It has taken off past us, and there are bigger boats that can carry it.”

This season, Elmira has teamed up with Hobart to jointly help out the Wounded Warrior Project during their home-and-home series this weekend. Each home team will host a series of events, including wearing new camouflage jerseys to be auctioned off and selling sweatshirts with a large ‘H’ on the front with the host school’s colors and laces to make them resemble a hockey jersey.

The ‘H’ stands for Hockey Helpers, representing something larger than each individual school.

Elmira got involved in the project through an alumni, Charles ‘Chip’ Jama, who is friends with Adler.

“Chip played golf for me while at Elmira and helped put it together,” said Elmira coach Aaron Saul. “It is going to be a great weekend by two alums who are friends, passionate about it, but also rivals.”

Elmira is going all out to make the event as high profile as possible.

“We are selling our game-worn jerseys for $100,” said Saul. “We are selling the Hockey Helper sweatshirts. We are doing some raffle items like a N.Y. Islanders stick and N.J. Devils signed jersey, and a lot of little things that people from the hockey community are helping us out. It is going to a great cause, and there are a lot of people affected by it.”

ECAC West Weekly Awards:
Player of the Week: Tim Coffman, Sr., Utica. Coffman tied the program’s all-time goals-scored record with two tallies in Saturday’s 9-3 win over Manhattanville. The senior, now with 58 goals in his Pioneers career, also holds program records for career assists (76) and points scored (134). Coffman scored Utica’s lone goal in a loss to the Valiants, 5-1 on Friday.

Goaltender of the Week: Marty Ausserhofer, Jr., Hobart. Ausserhofer finished a 1-0-1 week for the Statesmen with 63 saves. The junior followed a 28-save performance in a 2-2 tie on Friday with a career-high 35 saves on Saturday during a 4-1 victory over the Knights.

Rookie of the Week: Mark Rivera, Manhattanville. Rivera set career highs with two goals and three points in a 5-1 victory over No. 10 Utica on Friday night. The freshman assisted on the eventual game-winning goal, and tallied two insurance goals to add to his current points lead (17 points on eight goals and nine assists) among conference rookies.