Elmira’s Century Club leading the way

Forward Nick Ford leads a potent Elmira offense in pursuit of the UCHC title (Photo by Elmira College Athletics)

Having an 10-1-0 record since late November last year, Elmira is among four teams at the top of the UCHC standings that are separated by just three points. During that time, they have won the WB Mason Winter Classic at Plattsburgh; knocked off then No. 2 ranked Geneseo and defeated key conference foes like Utica and Wilkes in moving to 8-3-0 in UCHC play. Leading the way has been a key group of seniors that have already surpassed the century mark in points and soon will be adding 100 games played for the Soaring Eagles to their list of accomplishments.

Matthew Cuce (122 career points), Nick Ford (134 career points) and Connor Powell (131 career points) comprise the top three spots in team scoring this season and with fellow senior Anthony Parrucci, spearhead one of the most feared power plays in the country which connects at an astounding 37% rate. The offense has been firing on all cylinders and so too has the record in moving from 2-3-1 on November 16, 2019 to 12-4-1 heading into this weekend’s road games at Manhattanville and Neumann.

“These seniors have been through a lot,” said head coach Aaron Saul. “They came in as freshmen to a senior-laden team that we relied on heavily, lost in the final as sophomores and in a mini-game last year to Manhattanville in the semi-final round. There is no senioritis with this group. It can go either way sometimes with senior classes, but this group want to get it done and their play all year has shown that.”

While Parrucci has been a team leader as a three-year captain at Elmira, it’s the big three that draw a lot of attention from opposing teams based on their offensive prowess and consistent level of play.

“Who knew that a kid from Chicago, a kid from Florida and a kid from New Hampshire would combine so well together,” stated Saul. “Everyone knows that Nick is a goal-scorer with just a tremendous shot and quick release. Connor may be the best 200-foot center in the country and Matt is just like a waterbug that is everywhere on the ice. He does a lot of the work and doesn’t always get the credit like the All-American recognition the other two guys have received in the past. It is great to see him have the success this season and we certainly hope it continues in our final eight games in the regular season.”

A big part of the Elmira success has been the power play where the four seniors have combined for 20 of the team’s 30 man-up goals this season. Add in senior defensemen Christian Lloyd and Harry Kramer and the senior group accounts for 25 of 30.

“It has to be hard for teams defending against that group,” noted Saul. “You almost have to pick your poison sometimes. You must respect Nick’s shooting ability but if you pay too much attention there, you are leaving Powell and a 210-lb net presence in Parrucci with point blank chances in front and on the other side. The group really works well together, and I hope we can continue our success as special teams and goaltending are such big parts of the game now.”

The tandem of Chris Janzen and Logan Bateman have been very good in goal for Elmira as the team surrenders just 2.35 goals per game so far this season. While Janzen has played a couple more games than his freshman counterpart, the combination of the two playing well gives the coaching staff options and the team confidence regardless who is between the pipes.

“It is a luxury that not many teams have,” said Saul. “It is good to have two solid goaltenders that we can rotate and keep fresh especially coming into the end of the season. The team plays well in front of both of them and goaltending is always a key to how far you can go in your conference. I think we can play a bit better defensively and help them out more in our remaining games. Getting our goals-against average down closer to two with the way we can score would put us in a position to win a few more games. It would be nice for that to start Friday with Manhattanville who always give us problems, especially in their rink regardless of their record.”

Elmira plays five of their final eight games on the road and still has important matchups with Utica and Stevenson (only team to beat Elmira in last eleven games) to close out the UCHC regular season.

“You can never look too far ahead,” stated Saul. “Arlen [Marshall] always has his team ready to play so we need to be very focused on Manhattanville right now. We have been a good road team and will need to continue to play well on the road to close out the regular season strong.”