It’s hard enough playing Utica in their barn, with its thousands of fans. It’s just as bad playing them in your barn when they are playing at the level they are now. Utica is actually better on the road (5-0-2) than they are in their very friendly confines (4-3-0).
Brockport will experience that this Saturday when they host the 9th-ranked Pioneers at 7:00.
Utica’s success comes on the strength of a stifling defense that allows just 2.13 goals per game. Goaltender Nick Therrien is out of this world with a .930 save percentage and sub-2 goals against average (1.98 to be exact). In this nonconference game, his back-up - freshman Marcus Zelzer - will likely get the start. Even if he does, he’s no pushover with a brilliant .928 save percentage in 5 games.
Brockport will have a tough go of it trying to light the lamp on these guys, especially since one of the Golden Eagles’ strengths (their Top 20 power play) will, in effect, be neutralized. Utica has the 54th-least penalty minutes in NCAA DIII with just over 12 per game. That will give Brockport so few chances to capitalize on the man advantage.
Not a one-trick pony, Utica has the 19th best attack in DIII with 3.60 goals per game. But, you wouldn’t know that quickly looking at their stat sheet. There aren’t a lot of gaudy numbers. Adam Graff leads with goals (7), while Jon Gaffney has 5. No one else has more than 4. What they are is a balanced team – every line contributes to the offense.
The fellow to especially watch out for is Louie Educate. The speedster has “only” 10 points (4-6) this year, but last year he was an All-American with an 18-18-36 line. He’s due for an explosion.
Utica will be a formidable foe on Saturday. Brockport will have to keep pace with equally-adept goaltending (which the team is surely capable of) and capitalization of Brockport’s young speed. Nick Marinac, especially, could prove to be a game changer against Utica’s defense.
Prediction? It’s a lot closer than people think it will be…but Utica still comes out ahead, 3-2 in OT.