Conference is King
by Scott Bridges
It's nearing the end of January. The Super Bowl is still a week away and spring isn't even a mote of light at the end of the tunnel of winter yet. Yet after this weekend draws to a close there will be less than four weeks remaining in the regular season. As conference play heats up and the season continues to shorten these games take on more and more meaning as teams jockey for position heading into the playoffs.
If a team is looking to make a second half surge, now is the time to do it. With conference battles dominating the schedule there were plenty of opportunities for teams to move up or down the standings.
|Babson's Jamie Murray made 39
saves in his (and Babson's) 14th win this season.
Photo: Babson Athletics
Tonight's biggest matchup was between No. 8 Babson and No. 10 UMass Boston as the teams jockeyed for position in the ECAC-East.
Coming in to the contest the Beacons led Babson by a single point in the standings while trailing first place Norwich by two points. Whoever took the first of this two game series would put themselves in the driver's seat the rest of the way. A Beacon win would guarantee they would finish the weekend no worse than second place while a Beaver victory would place them in second place barring Saturday's result.
In the end it was Babson who emerged with a 4-2 victory. The home team used three goals in the first eight minutes of the second period to break open the contest. Bill Seligman scored two goals and added an assist while goaltender Jamie Murray stopped 39 shots. UMass Boston outshot the Beavers 41-34 but weren't able to solve Murray often enough to avoid the loss.
It will be for naught if Babson can't salvage at least a tie on Saturday though, as a Beacon victory would put them right back in second place over Babson. Norwich now sits three points clear of Babson after the Cadets continued their undefeated march through the ECAC-East.
Everyone in the Pool
Tonight's other top matchup might have taken top billing if the teams involved were in a different conference. Despite featuring the No. 3 and No. 13 teams in the nation in a late-season conference showdown, tonight's matchup between UW-River Falls and UW-Eau Claire just doesn't carry the same weight due to being in the WIAC.
Unlike most conferences, the winner of the WIAC does not get an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Instead the WIAC and ECAC-West are lumped together and given their own at-large Pool B bid. That means a late season run by an under performing team may not be enough to avoid being left out in the cold by the NCAA selection committee. An early season non-conference game means as much to the committee as a season-ending playoff game.
That said, this was still a key matchup between two of the top teams in the West that may go a long way towards determining which team garners that NCAA bid.
Despite River Falls being undefeated at home, Eau Claire mostly dominated the night in skating to a 5-2 victory. The Blugolds never trailed and outshot the Falcons 13-3 in the first period despite the 2-2 score. Eau Claire retook the lead 50 seconds into the second period before adding on to it with a power play goal and then finishing the scoring with an empty net. The Blugolds controlled play and dominated shots on goal 30-16. These two teams play again Saturday night before playing again in February to finish the season.
UW-Stevens Point did its part in the Pool B race by beating UW-Superior 4-2. The victory keeps the Pointers with the best win percentage in the conference with a chance to hold head-to-head tiebreakers over both River Falls and Eau Claire depending on matchups later this season.
As for the ECAC-West, this league has been confusing from the very beginning of the season and tonight did nothing to clarify things. Coming in to tonight, the only team with a winning non-conference record (Utica) sat tied for last place and only one team in the conference had more wins than losses and ties (Hobart.)
Tonight Hobart jumped out to a 2-0 lead over Nazareth after one period. But Nazareth scored the next seven goals en route to a 7-2 thumping of the former first place Statesmen. Neumann jumped all over Utica 9-0 and Manhattanville edged Elmira 3-1. Nazareth and Neumann are now tied for first place while Hobart sits two points behind. But with an overall record of 11-6-0 Hobart may still be the league's best chance at landing an NCAA bid, although that possibility gets dimmer with every loss.
Elsewhere in the Men's Top 15:
- No. 2 Norwich stayed perfect in the ECAC-East with a 6-1 victory over the University of New England.
- No. 4 Oswego State downed Buffalo State 6-0. The Lakers scored their first two goals just 35 seconds apart in the first period but weren't satisfied with that and scored their last two goals just nine seconds apart in the third period.
- No. 5 Trinity trailed 1-0 after two periods but scored three times in the third to defeat Connecticut College 3-1.
- No. 7 Adrian was tonight's biggest upset as the Bulldogs fell 3-0 to Finlandia. The loss puts St. Norbert in sole possession of first place in the NCHA. It's only the third time in program history that Adrian has been shut out. Finlandia scored three times in the final eight minutes of the game via the power play, short handed and finally five on five.
- No. 9 Plattsburgh used three third period goals to separate from Potsdam en route to a 6-2 victory. The Cardinals outshot the Bears 54-22 on the night.
- No. 11 Amherst defeated Hamilton 3-1. The Lord Jeffs led 2-0 before a late Hamilton goal made a game of things, but the Contintentals weren't able to tie things up.
- No. 12 St. Thomas stopped Hamline 4-1. The game was closer than the final score indicates as the Tommies scored two empty net goals in the dying seconds of the game.
- No. 14 Williams scored 46 seconds into its contest against Colby but still trailed 2-1 in the second period. Three straight goals put Williams back on top for a 4-2 victory.
- No. 15 Lake Forest scored three goals in each period en route to a 9-1 shellacking of Concordia Wis.
It was a busy conference night for the women as well, with most teams engaged against familiar foes.
Unlike the men there weren't any upsets of note as the teams on top generally held off their challengers. Some of the more notable upsets were Plymouth State defeating Manhattanville 4-3 in overtime and Utica downing Potsdam 3-2.
Plymouth State opened up a 2-0 lead under five minutes into the first period only for Manhattanville to claw back and tie things up early on in the second period. The Valiants were never able to take the lead though as Plymouth opened up a 3-2 lead only for Manhattanville to tie things up yet again in the third period. Plymouth State's Olivia Leon scored her second goal of the season with 53 seconds remaining in overtime to clinch the game for the Panthers.
Utica led Potsdam 1-0 before the Bears talled twice to carry a 2-1 lead into the third period. The Pioneers did their work in the margins of the final frame as they tied things up only 15 seconds into the period before scoring the game winning goal with 1:35 remaining in the game. The win puts Utica into a tie with Potsdam for fifth place, although the Pioneers have played five fewer conference games than Potsdam so far.
Elsewhere in the Women's Top 10:
- No. 3 Norwich defeated St. Michael's 3-0. The Cadets held the Purple Knights to eight shots on goal for the game.
- No. 4 Adrian defeated Finlandia 10-1. Breanna Merriam made 58 saves in a losing effort for the Lions.
- No. 5 Middlebury defeated Bowdoin 4-2. The victory keeps the Panthers tied for first with Amherst while Bowdoin drops into a tie for fourth place with Williams.
- No. 7 Gustavus Adolphus edged Saint Mary's 3-2 to stay in first place. The Cardinals remain in third place although three teams are within two points of them.
- No. 8 UW-River Falls defeated UW-Stevens Point 3-2. It's the third straight 3-2 finish between the two teams this season, with River Falls now having won twice. The teams finish their four game set on Saturday.
The Week That Was
Compiled by D3hockey.com staff
The 2014 women's national champions plow over their opponent from the title game, a big tuesday women's game ends in a tie, and the Geneseo men continue their surprising struggles. It's been a busy week thus far, and with that we present the highlights.
|Oswego's Bridget Smith had 37 saves in a 2-2 tie with Utica on Tuesday.|
It was a far from hectic day, with no Women's games to be found and just five games on the slate, but a matchup at the bottom of the NCHA provided a bit of intrigue as Finlandia (3-13-0) hosted Northland(2-13-2) in a conference showdown.
After a scoreless first, the home side took a 2-0 lead 44:06 into regulation, as James Devlin scored on the power play. Northland attempted to pull off a late comeback on a Darius Cole goal at 19:02 of the third, but it was too little, too late as Finlandia picked up their second conference win of the year. Walker Enstad made 21 saves for the Lions.
2014 National Semifinalists Geneseo State just cannot catch a break. A team whose losses to graduation were far from wholesale has reverted to playing .500 hockey this season. The Knights suffered their latest setback on Tuesday with a 3-1 loss to Nazareth College. The Knights took the early lead at 13:00 of the first period on a goal from Connor Anthoine, but from there, it was all Flyers, all the time on the scoreboard.
Nazareth rattled off three unanswered goals, with one coming in each period of play, to coast to the road win. Two of the Flyer goals came by way of Julius Tamasy, his third and fourth of the year respectively, and Oliver Janzen canned an unassisted goal in the second period of play. The Flyers close out a four game SUNYAC stretch with a record of 2-2 in those games, including a 5-3 win over Brockport that snapped the Golden Eagles' school record winning streak. Geneseo has just one win in the 2015 calendar year thus far, a 4-1 win over Neumann.
The ECAC West was the center of attention on Tuesday, and the
weekday got off to a flying start as No. 10 Oswego welcomed our
previous No. 10, Utica to the Campus Center Ice Arena in a game
rescheduled from earlier in the season. It didn't take long for the
Pioneers to get on the board, as Nicole Schwartz rolled one by
OSU's Bridget Smith just 55 seconds into the contest.
Utica kept the Lakers pinned deep for the balance of the period, but the second period was a different story. Olivia Ellis was in the right place at the right time for Oswego on two seperate occasions, as she scored two goals just 1:55 apart to give the Lakers a 2-1 lead in a much tighter second period of play.
Down a goal, the Pioneers came out firing in the third, and hit paydirt for the equalizer at 13:08. Emily Coope found the puck off a Allison Buch point shot, and drilled in the rebound to knot up the game for the remainder of regulation time.
Smith had a whale of a day for Oswego with 37 saves, but there may have been none bigger than her 37th and final save of the afternoon. With less than 10 seconds to go in overtime, Utica sprung forward Louise Steele-Norton in on the one on one breakaway, and Smith slammed the door shut on the right pipe to preserve the 2-2 tie. Utica outshot the home side 39-18.
The tie snapped a nine game winning streak for the Lakers, who have not lost since November 8th. Utica has lost just one game to a team ranked outside of the d3hockey.com Top Ten this year, a 2-1 loss to Stevenson on Saturday.
At the time, it seemed like the afternoon contest was just the appetizer, but No. 1 Plattsburgh had other ideas. The Cardinals broke open a scoreless first period tie with five unanswered goals, and Camille Leonard snagged the 15 save shutout for her seventh win of the season as Plattsburgh steamrolled No. 3 Norwich, 5-0, in a rematch of the 2014 national championship game. Freshman Kayla Meneghin continued her incredible rookie season with two goals, both of them unassisted.
The only Men's game of the day featured Stonehill(8-4-3) taking on a struggling Western New England squad(1-11-3) in a nonconference game. The matchup was indicative of the tough times the Golden Bears have faced this season, as they built a 4-0 lead over the opening 29:53, and squandered every bit of the advantage as Stonehill's Anthony D'Elia completed the comeback with the equalizer at 18:48 of the third, and the two teams skated to a 4-4 tie. Brandon Stoud chipped in to his team high total of eleven points with two goals and an assist for the Golden Bears, and Tim Carr made 39 saves. The Bears have not won a game since November 9th in a 3-2 win over Becker.
The Nation's top ranked team, St. Norbert, was back in action with an NCHA tilt at MSOE. The Green Knights(14-1-2) outshot the Raiders 39-22 and got a goal and an assist from Tyler Zepeda and Michael Hill as SNC rolled to a 4-1 win in front of a regional tv audience on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel Wisconsin. The Raiders cut into a 3-0 third period deficit with a Omar Mullan power play goal at 16:52, but could not cash in with netminder Nick Kohn on the bench as SNC's Mason Baptista iced it with an empty netter at 18:58.
On the Prowl
Compiled by D3hockey.com staff
As two of the fixture teams in the Primelink Shootout, Middlebury and No. 3 Plattsburgh see each other relatively frequently. Much to Middlebury's dismay, the Cardinals had won the last four meetings, including a 4-2 Cardinal win earlier this season. That all changed tonight.
Ordway sealed it in the third for the Panthers.
Photo: Middlebury Athletics
Middlebury made their intentions perfectly clear before the
Cardinals were even able to get on the board, building a 2-0 lead
that included Cameron Romoff's eventual game-winning goal over the
first 25:12 of the contest.
The Cardinals slashed it to a one goal game before the end of the period, but Middlebury's George Ordway iced the scoring at 11:11 of the third period with a short handed goal to give the Panthers the upset win. Middlebury enjoyed an efficient evening on the power play at a 1/3 clip, and netminder Stephen Klein was well protected, needing just 19 shots to pick up the win in a game dictated by defense.
Elsewhere, the No. 5 UW-Stevens Point Pointers were back in action against No. 7 UW-River Falls, and it was the Pointers who grabbed sole control of first place in the WIAC with their nail biting 1-0 victory over the Falcons. The critical WIAC tilt would go scoreless heading into the final minutes, until opportunity presented itself in the form of a late Pointer power play generated off a two minute minor for slashing on UWRF's Ryan Doner at 17:39. With opportunity knocking, Kyle Brodie delivered a rebound into the net with 44 seconds remaining to lift the Pointers to a 3-0 mark in the WIAC. Brandon Jaeger made 20 saves for the shutout win, and Tanner Milliron handled 22 of 23 shots in a losing effort.
Stop the streak at six. Brockport's school record six game win streak came screeching to a halt tonight, as the Golden Eagles were dropped by Rochester area rival Nazareth College by a 5-3 final score. Nazareth's CJ Murray broke a 3-3 tie in the second period, and the Flyers added an empty netter late in the third to seal the victory. Jesse Facchini had two assists for the Golden Eagles.
Elsewhere in the Men's Top 15:
- No. 1 St. Norbert ripped apart Concordia-Wisconsin by a 7-1 final. Pijus Rulevicius had two goals and an assist for the Green Knights.
- No. 2 Norwich had no issues with St. Michael's as they built a 5-0 first period lead and kept right on going to a 9-0 road win.
- No. 4 Oswego State had trouble at the thunderdomes, skating to a 2-2 tie with host Elmira College.
- No. 6 Babson got the tying goal from Mike Driscoll at 19:20 of the second period, but couldn't put away New England College as they settled for a 3-3 tie. Jamie Murray has given up three goals in each of his past two starts, and has not won three of his last four decisions.
- No. 8 Trinity held a 2-0 lead for much of the game, and held off a comeback bid by Bowdoin in the third period for the 2-1 NESCAC win. The Cole Brothers, Brandon and Ryan, each had an assist for the Bantams.
- No. 9 Adrian outshot St. Scholastica 41-19, but was able to get nothing beyond a 2-2 tie. The Bulldogs were a painful 1-for-8 on the power play on the night.
- No. 11 Amherst dropped a 6-4 decision at the hands of Connecticut College.
- No. 12 UMASS-Boston erased a 2-0 deficit and got the tying and winning goals from Matt Lemire just 2:03 apart in the third period as they rallied for a 5-4 win over Saint Anselm.
- No. 13 St. John's surrendered the game winning goal from Jon Grebosky 2:47 into overtime as they were handed a 3-2 defeat by Concordia-Moorhead.
- No. 15 Williams skated to a 1-1 tie with Manhattanville. Brian Fleming made 37 saves for the Valiants.
Tonight's feature matchup was in the NESCAC, as No. 4 Middlebury welcomed No. 6 Amherst in the first game of a decisive two game set. The Panthers will have to wait another day to inch closer to their fellow NESCAC contenders, as they were not able to work their overtime magic for the second time in a week and settled for a 2-2 tie. The Tie is the first for both squads this season.
At 9:59 of the third period, Amherst's Lynndy Smith snapped a 1-1 tie with a power play goal, assisted by Tori Salmon and Erin Martin. But Middlebury responded at 13:49 with an even strength goal from Maddie Winslow to lock the game up at two apiece for good. Middlebury was afforded just one power play in the contest, an early opportunity at 6:19 of the first period. The two teams play again Saturday.
Elsewhere in the Women's Top 10:
- No. 1 Plattsburgh steamrolled William Smith in their Cooler debut, 10-0.
- No. 2 Elmira took care of Neumann at the Ice Works by an 8-2 final.
- No. 3 Norwich got on the board just over eight minutes into the third period, but couldn't escape a 1-1 tie with Saint Anselm.
- No. 5 Adrian skated to a 4-4 tie with Concordia-Wisconsin. The Bulldogs are still undefeated on the year. Kelsey Kusch had a four point night for Adrian, which scored all four of its goals with the man advantage.
- No. 7 Gustavus Adolphus rolled Augsburg by a 5-0 final.
- No. 8 UW-River Falls scampered out to an 8-0 lead and never looked back in a 4-2 win over St. Scholastica.
- No. 9 UW-Stevens Point took the lead at 1:26 of the first period, but Lake Forest came back with five of the next six goals on the board, including Holly Lesperance's power play game winner early in the third period, as the Foresters stunned the Pointers by a 5-2 score.
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