By Mike Zhe
After another oh-so-close result against a national power, there’s little doubt that Castleton State can play with the best teams in Division 3.
The next step is beating them.
The Spartans (12-3-0, 7-1 ECAC East) have only lost three games this season — one to top-ranked Norwich and two to No. 3 Plattsburgh State, all of them by a single goal and all of them on the road.
The latest near-miss came Friday night, when they gave up two goals in a five-minute span midway through the third period and let host Plattsburgh get a little out of range in what would end up a 3-2 setback.
That came six days after a 2-1 loss at Plattsburgh in the Cardinal Classic, and a month after a valiant comeback at Norwich fell just short, 3-2.
Knocking on the door? More like trying to kick it down.
And, if there’s a sense of urgency, it’s understandable.
The older Spartans are playing the schedule with a little chip on their shoulders after getting snubbed come NCAA tournament time a year ago, despite a school-record 22 wins, more than every other team selected for the 11-team field but three.
Some of the freshmen from last year’s team — leading scorer Nick Lazorko, forward Colin Murray and goalie Erick Cinotti — have become critical components of this year’s team, which played the first eight games without reigning Joe Concannon Award winner Josh Harris.
Lazorko’s 13-10-23 scoring line leads the team and ranks fifth in the country. Murray is right behind him at 11-9-20. The Spartans lead Division 3 in goals per game (5.07) and power-play goals (26).
“Last year, our freshmen meant so much to us,” said Alex Todd, the Spartans’ seventh-year coach. “This year, we needed them to be solid contributors. You look at Nick Lazorko as one of the prime examples of that.”
Harris, who led Division 3 in scoring last season, sat out the first eight games while serving a suspension, Todd said.
If there’s been one chink in the armor, it’s been killing penalties. Though staying out of the box more, getting off the ice when shorthanded has been difficult at times.
“I’d like to see our p.k. get better,” said Todd. “We’ve been taking fewer penalties this year. We’re not in the box as much. “But unfortunately, and maybe because our p.k. is not getting as many reps as we’re used to, it’s not as good as it’s been.”
If nothing else, the program’s come a long way since Todd took over in its third varsity season in 2005-06, and inherited a team that had gone 0-44 its first two years.
Game of the Week
Norwich at Babson, Friday (at Fenway Park)
Two teams going in different directions, but you can’t beat the venue.
Norwich (10-0-1, 6-0 ECAC East) has scored at least three goals in every game this year, and it will try to cash in against a Babson team (3-10-0, 3-3 ECAC East) that’s lost five in a row and allowed five or six goals in nine of its 10 losses.
New England Division 3 power rankings
1. Norwich (10-0-1, 6-0 ECAC East)
Cadets brushed aside Morrisville (4-2) and Fitchburg State (5-1) to win their own Northeast Savings Bank Tournament. Kyle Thomas (Waltham, Mass.) had three goals on the weekend.
2. Castleton State (12-3, 7-1 ECAC East)
Junior forward Ben Schoeneberger (Vernon, Conn.) doubled his season production as the Spartans rebounded from the Plattsburgh loss with a 9-1 rout of Potsdam State, scoring three goals and four assists to give him 9-4-13 totals on the year.
3. Williams (8-1-2, 6-1-1 NESCAC)
Peter Mistretta’s strike in OT beat Wesleyan, 3-2, on Saturday and made it four wins in a row for the Ephmen.
4. Amherst (9-2-1, 6-1-0 NESCAC)
Lord Jeffs finally ran into something they couldn’t handle, giving up three goals in the third period of a 7-4 loss at Bowdoin before rebounding to beat Colby, 3-2.
5. Johnson & Wales (8-3-2, 3-0-1 ECAC Northeast)
Wildcats rallied from two goals down to earn 3-3 tie with Tufts, then blasted Southern New Hampshire 7-0 at the Codfish Classic. The line of Jeremiah Ketts, Jason Pietrasiak (Shrewsbury, Mass.) and Danny Kaufman continues to pile up points, with Kaufman leading the nation with 15 goals.
6. Bowdoin (7-3-1, 5-2-1 NESCAC)
Polar Bears enjoyed their best weekend of the season, knocking off Amherst (7-4) and Hamilton (5-2). Harry Matheson scored three goals in the wins.
7. UMass-Dartmouth (7-3-1, 4-1-1 MASCAC)
Five wins in last six games now for Corsairs, who got past Babson, 2-1, when freshman defenseman Stephen Ginand (Milford, Mass.) scored his second goal of the game in OT.
8. Curry (7-5, 5-0 ECAC Northeast)
That’s four losses in a row now for the struggling Colonels and things don’t get any easier: a trip to Manhattanville tonight and one to No. 2 Oswego on Friday.
9. Plymouth State (8-4-0, 5-1-0 MASCAC)
Joy ride hit its first speed bumps over the weekend, with 5-2 and 3-1 home losses to Wentworth. Panthers will try to get back on track when they resume MASCAC play at Westfield State on Thursday.
10. Wentworth (9-4-1, 2-1-1 ECAC Northeast)
Surging Leopards have won five of six after beating Bowdoin and sweeping Plymouth State last week. Mike Domsodi (9-10-19) is one of the most productive freshmen in Division 3.
Mike Zhe can be reached at email@example.com.