By Mike Zhe
Across the city, Babson (16-3, 10-2 ECAC East) can see explosive UMass-Boston (13-4-2, 6-4-2 ECAC East) potting five, six, sometimes eight goals a game, an offensive juggernaut whose 4.42 average trails just three teams in Division 3.
“I don’t think we’ll ever have a 60-point, All-American, Player of the Year guy,” said Babson coach Jamie Rice (Newton, Mass.), whose team ranks as one of the nation’s top teams in goals allowed.
Two of the top teams in the ECAC East – and the nation – met for an anticipated home-and-home series over the weekend and, this time, defense trumped offense.
Babson took wins of 2-0 – on the road Friday at the Clark Athletic Center – and 3-2 (back at home Saturday) to turn a three-team race in the ECAC East into, for all intents and purposes, a two-team race with Norwich Norwich (14-3-2, 10-1-1 ECAC East).
Sophomore goalie Jamie Murray (Scituate, Mass.) stopped all 30 shots he faced on Friday as his team held a 47-30 edge in shots. Mike Driscoll (Milton, Mass.) scored one goal and set up Troy Starrett’s (Bellingham, Mass.) insurance marker early in the third period.
On Saturday at Babson, after surrendering a pair of power-play goals that erased a two-goal lead, Nik Tasiopoulos (Norwell, Mass.) scored the game-winner midway through the third period for a 3-2 win, in a game that was evenly matched.
“We’re playing well,” said Rice. “You can always look at games and say, ‘We could be X and X.’ But it could also be the other way as well.”
In Division 3, only Adrian, St. Thomas and Johnson & Wales are allowing fewer goals than Babson’s 1.63 a game. The Beavers are 8-2 in one-goal games, those 2-1 and 3-2 battles that have become their trademark.
“We could definitely use a little more offense,” said Driscoll (Milton, Mass.), a junior and the team’s leading scorer at 9-9-18. “The biggest thing is we can’t get frustrated. The 1-0 loss to Norwich – we’ve just got to forget about it.”
The Beavers will try to take care of business at home this week against Castleton and Skidmore, a pair of middle-of-the-pack teams in the conference. They’ll want to guard against looking ahead to a Valentine’s night showdown at Norwich, which very well could determine the regular-season champion and home-ice rewards that go with it.
Those two teams met on Jan. 9 at Fenway Park, with the Cadets winning, 1-0, on a Shane Gorman (Trumbull, Conn.) goal midway through the third period.
Norwich and Babson will play at least once more. Figure defense having a say in the outcome.
Player of the Week
John Celli (Leominster, Mass.), soph., F, Fitchburg State
The MASCAC is as wide-open as it’s been in recent memory, and Celli and the Falcons entered the fray with two impressive wins last week. The sophomore from Leominster, Mass., had three goals and an assist in wins over first-place Westfield State (3-1) and Framingham State (8-2).
Games of the Week
Amherst at Trinity, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Past and present NESCAC powers meet in a huge league game in Hartford. Surging Trinity – six straight wins -- shares the top spot with Williams, while the Lord Jeffs are in third, just two points back with four weekends to play.
NEHJ Division 3 Power Rankings
1. Norwich (14-3-2, 10-1-1 ECAC East)
Taking care of business: Cadets finished with a 78-21 edge in shots in home wins against University of New England (5-1) and Southern Maine (3-0).
2. Babson (16-3, 10-2 ECAC East)
Murray’s sensational sophomore season continues. His .947 save percentage is fourth in Division 3.
3. Trinity (13-3, 8-2 NESCAC)
Sean Orlando’s second goal was the OT winner as Bantams kicked off a perfect weekend with 4-3 win at Conn. College Friday.
4. Williams (11-3-2, 7-1-2 NESCAC)
A 2-1 loss at Colby Friday was a tough one to swallow, giving up the game-winner with 82 seconds left in regulation.
& Wales (14-3, 4-2 ECAC Northeast)
Light week for Wildcats saw Cody Sarmiento score two and set up another in 6-1 win over Western New England, team’s ninth in a row.
6. UMass-Boston (13-4-2, 6-4-2 ECAC East)
The two losses to Babson were tight, but when weekend was over the Beacons’ NCAA hopes had taken a hit.
Ollie Koo’s (Greenwich, Conn.) goal in the final minute of regulation and Mitch Barrington’s strike in the opening minute of OT stunned Middlebury Friday, 5-4.
England College (12-6-1, 8-5 ECAC
Another big weekend for Cheyne Matheson, who set up two goals in both weekend games, a win at Castleton and overtime loss at Skidmore.
(11-4-2, 4-1-1 ECAC
Everybody got into the act in 8-4 rout of Salve Regina Saturday; can’t look past Western New England on Thursday.
Ben Chwick’s late goal capped a 2-1 upset of Williams, but Mules couldn’t parlay the momentum in a 5-2 loss to Middlebury the next day.