November 22, 2011

Small College Journal: Curry, others facing a Super Tuesday

By Mike Zhe

Four games into the hockey season is a sample size that leaves too much room for guessing. 

At least it does for Curry coach Rob Davies. 

Senior forward Payden Benning of Curry (photo: Curry Athletics)

Senior forward Payden Benning of Curry (photo: Curry Athletics)

With a strong core back from a team that won the ECAC Northeast title for the second year in a row, the Colonels figure to, at minimum, be contenders again this winter. And with three straight wins that followed a 5-4 loss at No. 14 Neumann in their opener, they’ve done nothing to change that expectation.

“Four games in, I think we’ve gathered some information from a subjective standpoint, but there’s some objective things, too,” said Davies. “Our penalty kill was perfect last game (a 4-2 win against Western New England) and the game before (a 4-2 win against Becker). Our freshman goalie (Derek Mohney), I think, is an upgrade who wants to prove himself. There’s some things even four games in you can read.”

And, when it comes to the not-overly-large list of New England teams that have realistic hopes of punching their NCAA Division 3 tournament tickets in March, nothing tells you where you stand like a battle against another strong teams.

Curry (3-1) gets a taste of that tonight when it welcomes a NESCAC team, Tufts, to Max Ulin Arena. It’s one of 13 games involving regional teams tonight during a rare weeknight full slate, one that will tell us a little bit more about a few other teams, too, when it’s over.

Plymouth takes its perfect 4-0 record into Vermont to battle another unbeaten team, explosive third-ranked Castleton. Meanwhile, one of the NESCAC top dogs, Williams, entertains Babson, a team that has hopes of doing some damage in the ECAC East.

At this time a year, it’s not just getting the results that is important. It’s establishing a foundation for a winning season, the work ethic and locker room culture, so that’s it’s there when the games really get big after the holidays.

“I think we can be a real good team if we can just create the right culture in the locker room,” said Davies. “We’re in the infant stage of trying to create that.”

The Colonels figure to again get offense from their defense, behind players like senior Ryan Barlock, sophomore Joshua Pineiro and junior Brett Kaneshiro; as well as forwards like senior captain Payden Benning.

One other thing Curry knows it has this year, after winning two straight league titles — a target on its back.

“We’re the preseason favorite to win our league again,” said Davies. “We’re the hunted. There was a time when Curry was the hunter. It’s a different approach.”

Game of the Week

Amherst vs. Salem State, Cape Cod Lighthouse Invitational, Saturday

First round of the tournament in Hyannis also pits Hobart against Babson. The winners will face off on Sunday.

New England Division 3 power ratings

1. Norwich (4-0, 4-0 ECAC East)

Stiffest competition yet for the Cadets this weekend, when they will face No. 6 Plattsburgh and either No. 10 Elmira or No. 11 Middlebury in the PrimeLink Tournament.

2. Castleton State (6-0, 6-0 ECAC East)

Absence of Josh Harris has been offset by production of sophomore Nick Lazorko (8-4-12) and junior Dan Bell (7-5-12)

3. Middlebury (2-0, 2-0 NESCAC)

Panthers’ 7-1 win over Bowdoin surely turned a few eyes Sunday. Two goals and five assists for senior forward Charlie Strauss on the weekend.

4. Salem State (2-0-1, 1-0-1 MASCAC)

Vikings had little trouble shaking off rust from 10-day layoff, beating Fitchburg State and tying UMass-Dartmouth, two of the teams that figure to challenge them for league supremacy.

5. Curry (3-1, 3-0 ECAC Northeast)

Colonels made it three wins in a row by beating Western New England, 4-2. Could get a test tonight when a good skating Tufts team comes to town.

6. Williams (1-0-1, 1-0-1 NESCAC)

Mark Lyons had the OT game-winner in 4-3 win against Colby Sunday, plus two assists in regulation.

7. Plymouth State (4-0, 2-0 MASCAC)

Panthers have taken care of business against the teams they should be taking care of business against.

8. Bowdoin (0-1-1, 0-1-1 NESCAC)

Lost in fog of the 7-1 loss to Middlebury was solid 3-3 tie at Williams a day earlier.

9. Amherst (1-0, 1-0 NESCAC)

Jonathan La Rose made 22 saves in season-opening 2-0 shutout of Hamilton.

10 (tie). Johnson and Wales (4-1-1, 1-0-1 ECAC Northeast)

Holding on for 2-2 tie at Wentworth was gutty, especially when getting outshot 35-19.

10 (tie). New England College (5-2, 4-2 ECAC East)

Rebounded from 6-3 loss at Norwich with 4-1 win at St. Michael’s, with James O’Reilly scoring a pair.

Mike Zhe can be reached at mzhe@hockeyjournal.com.