Just this past week Norwich coach Mike McShane warned me that recruiting is such these days that “good young coaches are doing a great job recruiting and that all of the conferences are really competitive.” Gone are the days of wearing down just first line talent and blowing out opponents in the third period. So, based on that are we looking at upsets in opening weekend, or the new norm in D-III hockey? If it’s the new normal, this is going to be a wild season!
Endicott outshot visiting Plymouth State by a 37-24 margin, including 15-6 in the final 20 minutes, but ceded Alex LeFave’s even-strength goal in the opening four minutes of the final stanza to drop the season opener by a 3-2 score. Ryan Stevens was the star for the Panthers with two goals and an assist for the visitors, who were backed by 35 saves by Evan Morelli in goal.
Curry opened with a mixed weekend as Friday saw a 5-1 win over Massachusetts-Dartmouth led by two goals from Adam Valadao and a short-handed marker from Jordan Williamson. Saturday night, the Colonels ran into an offensive juggernaut as they fell to Massachusetts-Boston by a 6-1 score behind a second period hat trick from Colin Larkin.
Despite being outshout 51-19, Salem state downed Babson 3-2 on Saturday as Parker Wood and Derek Makimaa scored 32 seconds apart in the first two minutes of the third period to break a 1-1 tie. Jason Pucciarelli made 49 saves to hold off the Beavers for the opening game victory.
On Friday night, in another upset of sorts, Fitchburg State scored short-handed off the stick of Ricky Kramer halfway through the third period and Kirby Saari made 32 saves as the Falcons downed New England College, 2-1.
New program in first game vs. new coach at St. Anselm and the Hawks downed Bryn Athyn by a 4-2 score, giving Jim Tortorella his first win for St. A’s. Matt Chisholm and Michael Ferraro scored in the second period to erase the Lions’ 2-1 lead, and Jeremy Carignan sealed the win with an empty-net goal in the final seconds to seal the 4-2 win.
Defending champion Assumption opened its season at Suffolk in a nonconference battle and the Rams raced to a 5-0 lead behind two goals from Matt Bucher on their way to a 5-2 win. Michael Levine made 37 saves for Suffolk, which was outshot 39-23 for the game.
The banner went up in Northfield on Friday night to celebrate Norwich’s national championship, but it was Salve Regina that left Kreitzberg Arena with the win. Goals by Jack Billings, Evan Schmidbauer, and Danny Eruzione gave the Seahawks a 3-0 lead the Cadets could not rally back from. Blake Wojtala made 37 saves, including 18 in the second period that stood up for a 3-2 win.
Hobart, the newest member of the NEHC, opened the season with a familiar and former ECAC West foe in Elmira. Matthew Cuce scored his second goal of the game in overtime after Cam Shaheen had tied it for the Statesmen late in the third period to give Elmira the opening night win by a 3-2 score.
Many expected Geneseo to showcase some offense this season, and the opening weekend did not disappoint as the Knights took a pair of wins by scores of 6-1 over Neumann and 4-2 on the road at Nazareth. Tyson Empey and Devin Brink both enjoyed four-point weekends for Geneseo, while Devin McDonald made 45 saves in the two wins.
On Friday night, Plattsburgh scored nine goals in a lopsided exhibition win. Coach Bob Emery may be wishing they saved a few goals for the real game as Saturday night saw the Cardinals upset in their season opener by Canton. Josh Sova scored both on the power play and short-handed for the Kangaroos in the 4-3 win. Tyler Bullard added a goal and an assist, while Michael Cerasuolo made 44 saves in the upset win.
Utica used seven different goal scorers on Friday night to open its campaign with a 7-3 win over Fredonia. Saturday saw a bit closer contest on the road at Cortland, where the Pioneers eked out a 3-2 win. Dalton Carter scored the opening goal of the game and assisted on Justin Derlago’s game-winner with just over five minutes remaining in regulation time in the third period.
Manhattanville and Stevenson shared a common opponent over the weekend, with both teams finishing with the same result of a 2-2 tie. The Valiants opened a 2-0 lead on goals by Kevin Loppatto and Steven Gaul, only to see the Mustangs fight back in the third period for the overtime draw. In the battle of the Mustangs, Stevenson surrendered one-goal leads twice as Layne Martin tied it for Morrisville early in the third period to offset two goals from Doug Rose for the visitors from Maryland.
Colin Larkin, Massachusetts-Boston: Last year’s conference player of the year started off the new season with a flourish, posting four points on opening night and followed by a second period hat trick in the 6-1 win over Curry.
Josh Zizek, Oswego: He figured in all the scoring for the Lakers on Saturday night, as he scored three goals and assisted David Ferreira’s game-winner in the 4-2 home opening win over Elmira.
Blake Wojtala, Salve Regina: The Seahawks netminder played a big part in Salve Regina’s road win over Norwich on Friday by a 3-2 score. Wojtala made an early 3-0 lead stand up as he made 37 saves, including 11 in the third period when the Seahawks were outshot 11-3.
Derek Mecrones and Brady Fleurent, University of New England: Each scored hat tricks in the Nor’easters weekend sweep of Southern Maine by a score of 10-4 and St. Anselm by a score of 6-4 on Saturday night.
It is only week one, and there is a very long way to go, but this writer for one is hoping that the great competitiveness seen in nonconference action this weekend will be consistent for the season. It will make the “Road to Lake Placid” all the more interesting.