While NESCAC formerly started practices on November 1, some teams eased into the season with some less challenging opponents, while others dove right into major nonconference matchups, or, better yet, great conference rivalry games to start the new campaign. This weekend saw a bit of all of it and one thing seems very obvious — if you don’t show up to play, expect a big “L” result.
CCC (formerly ECAC Northeast)
While everyone expects the battle at the top to be a three team race amongst Endicott, Salve Regina, and the University of New England, don’t go forgetting the Nichols Bison just yet. Nichols opened with a convincing 4-0 win over Wentworth on Thursday night before knocking off last year’s regular season champions from Endicott on Saturday by a 4-1 score. Four different players scored for Nichols, while Colin Brennan made 38 saves to notch the big early-season win.
Salve Regina also won its opening two games by 3-1 and 6-0 scores over Curry and Suffolk, respectively. Goaltender Blake Wojtala has picked up where he left off last season, earning the shutout over the Rams on Saturday.
Stevenson started out its first NCAA season by going 3-0-0, including its first ECAC West win over Elmira in overtime on Friday night. Jordan Watt tallied the game-winner with just 28 seconds remaining in the extra session after Elmira rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third period. The defending champions from Hobart made their first trip to Maryland on Saturday and took a 3-1 decision, scoring two power-play goals and earning Alexander Connal his first collegiate win in goal.
Plymouth State and Salem State both put up seven-spots in games on Thursday with wins over Stonehill by the Panthers and Westfield State by the Vikings. Both teams showed a balanced attack, with six players recording goals for the winners in both games.
Eric Noack’s maiden voyage into MASCAC play saw a see-saw battle with Worcester State that ended in his first conference win with Mike Kelly’s overtime goal. Drew Michals made 47 saves as the Corsairs were outshot by a 51-34 margin.
NEHC (formerly ECAC East)
The Thoroughbreds from Skidmore had a pretty impressive opening weekend at home, taking two wins by 4-1 and 4-0 scores over New England College and St. Anselm College. Anthony Bird had two goals and an assist in the opening night win, while Brandon Kasel picked up his first shutout and win over the Hawks on Saturday.
Norwich took a pair of games at home with a conference win over Southern Maine by a 4-1 score and a 9-1 pasting of Daniel Webster on Saturday night. In nonconference action, Massachusetts-Boston took a 6-0 decision over Massachusetts-Dartmouth. Drew Gannon scored twice for the Beacons, while Jordan Bustard picked up the shutout in his second win on the season.
Many expected Geneseo to bring some firepower and on opening night against Cortland, the Knights scored 11 goals in a runaway win over the Red Dragons. The HCM (Hills, Collins, Marra) line accounted for four goals and eight points, while Conlon Keenan recorded a hat trick. The Knights might have wanted to hold on to a couple of those goals for Saturday, as a focused Oswego team completed an opening weekend sweep with a 5-3 win over Geneseo sealed by Alex Botten’s empty-net goal.
On Friday the Lakers opened their SUNYAC campaign with a 5-1 win over Brockport with five different players scoring goals. Elsewhere, Fredonia may have surprised Buffalo State a bit as they won on the road on Friday by a 4-2 score before earning a 1-1 tie at home on Saturday night behind 42 saves from goaltender Eric Bogart.
Stephen Collins, Geneseo: Last year’s conference POTY started off the new season with a bang, posting two goals and two assists in a conference opening win over Cortland.
Sean Nelson, Curry: Figured in all of the scoring for the Colonels in their 4-3 win over Wentworth. Nelson scored twice and set up the other two goals in the first conference win for Curry.
Blake Wojtala, Salve Regina: The Seahawks netminder picked up where he left off last season, posting a shutout while making 32 saves in a 6-0 win over Suffolk on Saturday.
If the opening weekend is any kind of indicator for how things are going to go in all of the conferences, expect some crazy action on the ice and in the standings: the “Road to Utica” is officially underway.