November 21, 2013

D3 Journal: MASCAC off to predictably unpredictable start

By Mike Zhe

As far as sure things go, the MASCAC title being up for grabs this winter is right up there with pulling the goalie when you’re down a goal with a minute left.

Nothing we’ve seen so far has changed that.

Two weeks into the season, your first-place team is Framingham State, which had opposing coaches so enthralled that they picked the Rams to finish seventh out of seven teams in the league’s preseason poll.

But the Rams won a couple gut-check games last week, including a 5-4 triumph over UMass-Dartmouth Thursday when senior forward Eric Ward (Haverhill, Mass.) scored the game-winner with seven seconds left in regulation.

That followed a 2-1 in over Westfield State, one of the teams projected to finish near the top of the MASCAC, on Tuesday. The Rams also doubled-up Salem State, 6-3, on Saturday behind two goals apiece from Brendan McCarron (Millbury, Mass) and Ricky O’Connor (North Andover, Mass.).

The win was the first for the Rams in – get this – 35 meetings with Salem State dating back to 1987. It also put them light years ahead of last year’s pace, which wrapped up with a record of 0-15-3 in league play and 2-19-3 overall.

“Any team can win,” said Westfield State coach Bob Miele on the eve of the season. “We do have some veterans coming back but it doesn’t really matter. Other teams have very good freshman classes coming in.”

Plymouth State, which has finished the last two regular seasons atop the MASCAC standings, was the preseason pick in the coaches’ poll, narrowly edging Westfield State, UMass-Dartmouth and Salem State. But the Panthers have 15 new faces and are off to a 2-4 start (1-2 MASCAC).

“I think we’ll be there in the end; there’s no doubt in my mind,” said Plymouth State coach Craig Russell (Northfield, Vt.). “But right now? No way. We haven’t earned it.”

It’s a seven-way conversation. But early on, it’s Framingham State doing the loudest talking.

Player of the Week

Conor Brown, soph., F, Amherst

If the St. Mark’s product is out to show his freshman season was no fluke he’s off to a great start. He scored two goals in each game as Lord Jeffs swept a home-and-home with Hamilton last weekend by scores of 5-2 and 3-1 to open their year.

Game of the Week

New England College at Norwich, Saturday, 4 p.m.

Encouraging start to the season for the Pilgrims, who’ve won four of five. Now they get a measuring stick against new-look Norwich, which has outscored foes 27-6 in its first four games, all wins.

NEHJ Division 3 Power Rankings

1. Norwich (4-0, 3-0 ECAC East)

Early-season rampage took Cadets through Maine, where they easily handled Southern Maine (4-1) and the University of New England (8-1).

2. Babson (4-0, 2-0 ECAC East)

Mike Driscoll had a goal and an assist in 4-3 win over Assumption Saturday.

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

Craig Kitto scored a goal and set up two others as the Ephmen handled preseason favorite Bowdoin, 5-2, in the NESCAC’s opening weekend.

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

Max Fenkell’s 34 saves helped Polar Bears salvage a 2-2 tie at Middlebury in their opener.

5. UMass-Boston (2-1, 1-1 ECAC East)

Beacons were idle this weekend, get back into the swing when they play at Castleton State Friday.

6. Amherst (2-0, 2-0 NESCAC)
Conor Brown scored two goals in each game as Lord Jeffs opened with home-and-home sweep of Hamilton, 5-2 and 3-1.

7. Middlebury (1-0-1, 1-0-1 NESCAC)
Derek Pimental led the offense with three goals and an assist on opening weekend.

8. Nichols (3-0-1, 2-0-1 ECAC Northeast)
Tyler Beasley’s goal and assist helped deliver a statement win over two-time defending champ Wentworth Saturday, 4-3.

9. New England College (4-1, 3-1 ECAC East) 
Cheyne Matheson and Samuli Turunen had the hot hands in sweep of Skidmore (6-4) and Castleton (2-1).

10. Salve Regina (5-1, 3-1 ECAC Northeast) 
Marc Biggs scored a goal and set up two others in Saturday’s 5-2 win over Becker.

Twitter: @MikeZhe603