By Mike Zhe
Hometown product Joe Caveney is only getting three semesters on the ice to show what he can do at Fitchburg State, but he sure is making the most of them.
Or, more accurately, he’s making his points.
Caveney (Fitchburg, Mass.) enters the final night of the MASCAC regular season Tuesday as the leading scorer in all of Division 3. His 29 assists and 45 points are both the top figures in the nation, and he’s been on a tear since getting placed on a line between freshman wingers Ryan Connolly and John Celli (Leominster, Mass.) earlier this month.
“Yeah, it does surprise me,” said Caveney, who spent two injury-plagued seasons at Division 1 UMass-Lowell before transferring to Fitchburg midway through his junior year. “I didn’t really keep track of it during the season, and then someone brought it to my attention. It’s neat but it’s not going to change anything for me.”
Caveney had a robust scoresheet last week – four goals and nine points in three games. His three assists helped knocked down second-place Westfield State, 7-4, on Saturday.
Tonight’s game at first-place Plymouth State has some serious weight for the Falcons, who are 10-12-2 overall (9-7-1 MASCAC), a mark that reflects their inconsistency. With a win, they’d clinch third place and a home game in this weekend’s first round of MASCAC tournament play. A loss would leave them fourth or fifth.
Coming out of St. Bernard’s High School in town and the New England Jr. Huskies, Caveney was recruited by then-Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald (Billerica, Mass.), but played just 18 games total as a freshman and sophomore. Both years he suffered torn ACLs around the holidays.
“This kid,” said Fitchburg State coach Dean Fuller, “is a very, very good hockey player who would still be at ULowell if not for the injuries.”
MacDonald was dismissed after his sophomore year and Norm Bazin took over. Caveney saw the big picture and knew it might not be a great fit.
“For whatever reason, it didn’t work out as planned,” he said. “Nothing against Coach Bazin. I just wanted to go somewhere where I could play hockey.”
As a junior, joining the Fitchburg program in January, he potted nine goals and had 21 points in just 15 games. This year, he picked up right where he left off.
“This is the most confident I’ve seen him play,” said Fuller. “And I think part of it is he’s never been healthier than he is now.”
As recruiting in Division 3 gets more and more national – even international – Fuller’s teams usually have a healthy complement of homegrown products. In addition to Caveney and Celli, there’s senior forwards Trevor Lawler (Fitchburg, Mass.) and Curtis Nikitas (Leominster, Mass.), and backup goalie Dan Finn (Fitchburg, Mass.).
Celli (10-16-26) and Lawler (7-17-24) have been two of the Falcons’ most productive forwards.
“Coach Fuller tries to get a lot of hometown guys and a lot of us have been doing pretty well this year,” said Caveney.
With five teams above .500 in the league standings, and a slew of one-goal outcomes in the results each weekend, a lot of teams besides Plymouth think they can make some noise before this is over.
“We’ve got some good things going,” said Fuller. “We’ve got things in place that we could do very well in the postseason.”
Player of the Week
Mike Driscoll, soph., F, Babson
Milton, Mass., product had three goals and five points in 2-0-1 week for Beavers, who secured third place in the ECAC East. No goal was bigger than the one that got his team untracked in 2-2 tie with Norwich on Friday.
Game of the Week
Middlebury at Amherst, Saturday
Middlebury’s second-half push couldn’t get it into the top four; now, it faces a rematch of last year’s league championship game against the stingy Lord Jeffs, who rank seventh nationally in team defense (2.00 goals per game allowed) and beat them 5-3 just three days ago.
New England Division 3 Power Rankings
1. Norwich (21-2-1, 16-1-1 ECAC East)
Tough to see the Cadets getting challenged until the ECAC East championship game — which likely will again be held at Kreitzberg Arena.
2. Williams (15-6-3, 12-4-2 NESCAC)
Cody Skinner had a goal in each game as the Ephmen took over second place in the NESCAC by beating Amherst (4-2) and Hamilton (4-3 in overtime) on the road.
3. Bowdoin (19-3-2, 13-3-2 NESCAC)
Is Monday’s 10-5 loss to Trinity at Brooks School an aberration? Or a red flag for the Polar Bears heading into the postseason?
4. UMass-Boston (18-5-2, 11-5-2 ECAC East)
Zach Andrews made 22 saves as Beacons clinched second place in the league with a 5-0 blanking of St. Michael’s on Friday.
5. Amherst (15-6-3, 11-5-2 NESCAC)
Johnny Van Siclen had two goals and an assist in Saturday’s 5-3 win over Middlebury that closed out the regular season.
6. Trinity (14-6-3, 11-4-3 NESCAC)
The Jeff Menard (Burlington, Mass.)/Chris Menard (Burlington, Mass.)/Jordan So line was all over Bowdoin in Monday’s 10-5 win, with So netting the hat trick.
7. Plymouth State (17-6-1, 13-3-1 MASCAC)
Two OT games for the Panthers last week, with freshman Josh Woody’s second goal of the game the winner against Worcester State, 3-2.
8. Babson (14-6-5, 10-5-3 ECAC East)
Provided they take care of their quarterfinal business, Beavers should take some confidence with them to the final four at Norwich after skating to a 2-2 tie with the Cadets Friday night.
9. Wentworth (14-8-3, 10-2-2 ECAC Northeast)
Shaun Jameson collected three more assists in 5-2 win over Salve Regina and now leads all Division 3 defensemen in that category.
10. Westfield State (13-8-3, 9-6-3 MASCAC)
Owls saw a 4-3 lead early in the third period at Fitchburg State on Saturday collapse under four straight allowed goals in 7-4 loss.
Mike Zhe can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeZhe603.