This past weekend wasn’t as impressive as the weekend before within the conference but Quinnipiac had an impressive weekend and looked good in a sweep of UMass-Lowell. The Ivies will begin play this weekend with Yale, Dartmouth, Princeton and Brown all participating in the Liberty Hockey Invitational at the Prudential Center, in Newark New Jersey. Cornell will open its season with a pair against Nebraska-Omaha, while Harvard opens its season against Bentley for the second straight season. Having these teams playing will give more options in next week’s edition but in hindsight there are still some major trends that stood out for me over the weekend.
Is it time to panic in Schenectady?
One of the biggest knocks of Union over the summer was whether they would find enough scoring to replace the likes of Josh Jooris, Wayne Simpson and Kyle Bodie. The Dutchmen have found replacements in freshman Michael Pontarelli, who has looked mighty impressive in the early going with four goals and three assists in four tilts, and senior Kevin Sullivan. Although the Dutchmen have been able to find the back of the net with consistency, they have still struggled in the first two weeks with a 1-2-1 record, all of which have been at home. Its biggest weakness has become its strength in the early season games.
The problem in the early going is not fully on the defense but on its goaltending. Troy Grosenick who was rock solid the past two seasons left with a year of eligibility on the table and left the starting job to Colin Stevens. Stevens got injured six minutes into the season in a game against Bowling Green, which left the job to backup Alex Sakellaropoulos. He has struggled in four games with a 3.95 GAA and a .825 save percentage. His struggles have gone along with Union’s early struggles.
Over the weekend, Union was swept by Lake Superior State at Messa, something else that has been very uncharacteristic in the Rick Bennett era. I have been unsure on this particular Union team since preseason and with these struggles it has become clear just how important Colin Stevens was going to be in regards to this Dutchmen team.
It is unknown when Stevens will come back, so either Sakellaropoulos or third string Dillon Pieri will have to step up in the mean time while Stevens is out. It might be a tad early to panic but at some point the offensive questions may catch up and mount on the back of struggling goaltending. Union will open its conference schedule next weekend on the road and travel to UConn this weekend. For the first time in three years its biggest worry falls on the back of goaltending, a position it has been so solid at in recent memory.
Quinnipiac has picked up right where it left off
On Friday night, I was able to see the road leg of Quinnipiac’s sweep of UMass-Lowell and in all honesty there is no doubt in my mind that it may again be the favorite in the ECAC this season. You can read my article on QU sophomore goaltender, Michael Garteig, and realize that the Bobcats will again play from the net out but what I mention in there is not everything.
The Bobcats dominated nearly every shift on Friday night and in some senses seemed to put UMass-Lowell to sleep with its tough, in your face defense. Whether it was on the penalty-kill or whether it was even strength, QU looked like a team that was poised to repeat what it did last season. Actually, at times they almost looked better in all positions.
Offensively, the Bobcats continue to be stacked and will look for even bigger contributions from its star players. Jordan Samuels-Thomas looks like a force to be reckoned with this season, as he was for much of last season, the Jones twins look ever creative and Matthew Peca looked unstoppable at times. With those three clicking, Quinnipiac can compete with the best teams in the nation, which includes UMass-Lowell. Add a talented freshmen class, which includes Sam Anas and Connor Clifton among many others, and the Bobcats may again be the team that was off some radars in the early going that will be there at the end of the season. It is early, but it again looks like a force to be reckoned with.
Colgate has been Jekyll and Hyde in the early going.
In its two wins and a tie, the Red Raiders have allowed just three goals. In its two losses it has allowed 14 goals. That seems a bit strange but again it is early. In the preseason I wrote this in my team preview, which you should probably check out, and in all honesty this just might be how the season continues to truck along for Gate.
With so much inexperience on defense the inconsistent performances are probably going to become the norm, but in the five games there has been a huge trend that has developed. Erik Mihalik is 2-0-1 on the season with a 0.65 GAA and a.975 GAA, while freshman Charlie Finn is 0-2-0 with a 6.54 GAA and a .840 save percentage. One would think that with those numbers the job is now Mihalik’s to lose, but one can wonder whether Spencer Finney would get a shot at some point. Finney was Gate’s go to guy last season between the pipes as a freshman, playing in 23 games, but he has been no where to be found so far. Until we answer that question, Mihalik’s numbers are just phenomenal and he has probably become the guy for the Red Raiders.