Monday, December 10, 2018

The 2018-2019 midseason report

We’re at the halfway point of the 2018-2019 season, one that has proven to be quite entertaining and one that has exceeded expectations.

Heading into the season with 9 freshman it looked to many folks as a sort of rebuilding year. Getting to the playoffs, let alone 10 wins, looked questionable at best, a sort of pipe dream.

I was a little more optimistic, having witnessed a similar makeover in 2008-2009 when my all-time favorite Golden Eagle squad become a playoff contender in a year when everyone had the program written off. Here we are, a decade later, and we’re seeing that same sort of surprise.

The Golden Eagles head into the winter break at 8-4-1, a spectacular record.

They’ve gotten there thanks to a great defense, something I counted as their strength in the season preview. Little did I know they would exceeded even my lofty expectations!

Brockport’s all-time best defensive unit allowed 3.04 goals per game in the 2014-2015 season. My beloved 2008-2009 team comes in at second with 3.30 goals allowed per contest. This year’s team has annihilated those numbers.

Brockport has the 6th best scoring defense in the entire country, allowing only 1.77 goals per game. Amazing, truly amazing!

The team works hard at minimizing quality opportunities for opponents, the blue liners have committed themselves to conservative turnover-free play, the forwards have sacrificed themselves with a physical and excellent backcheck, and the team has been blessed with great goaltending by Jake Moore.

For old-time hockey purists, that’s exciting to watch.

But, it’s a tale of two teams.

Offensively, the team isn’t producing.  

That was to be expected – the team lost 39 goals to graduation. That’s a tough loss to make up.

In the season preview, I mentioned it would take some time for the lines to gel and the freshmen to learn the nuances of the NCAA. We aren’t there yet.

The Golden Eagles rank 52nd out of 83 teams in DIII, scoring just 2.69 goals per game. You cannot win in DIII scoring less than 3 goals per game, no matter how many goals you prevent.

The talent is there to find a half goal to a goal per game in the second half. It’s just that the little things need to be capitalized on.

That was none more evident than in the Cortland game. Brockport should have won because, one, defensively they were stifling good opportunities, two, it was a home game, and, three, it was a special home game (law enforcement night). But, the team just couldn’t score. It wasn’t for a lack of initial effort, though (the team was peppering the Cortland all game). It was the lack of secondary effort. Seven times the Cortland goalie left on the ice really, really bad rebounds which could have been buried by Brockport but every time it seemed like Brockport’s advancing players would stop after the initial shot, thinking  the play was done. Had they finished the play and kept moving forward with intent of getting to the net they could have scored a goal or two to win a much-needed SUNYAC affair.

That sort of play comes with time and experience. The Juniors are a little more wide open than what you see in DIII, where there is a substantial amount of activity between the face-off circles and the crease. Guys need to finish and get the dirty, gritty, lunchbucket goals, like those often scored by Doc Gentzler and Danny Rock.  

The talent is there, the team just needs to finish every single assault on the net. 

Speaking of talent, let’s look at some individual performances from the first half.

Most Valuable Player: Without a doubt, the MVP award goes to goalie Jake Moore. The senior has been playing at a high level -- he’s made saves that require pure athleticism and he’s done the things that require pure mechanics and attention to detail. One thing that I really like is his positioning – he looks 6’8” in the net because of that. He’s eighth in the nation with a .938 save percentage and he’s also eighth with a 1.59 goals against average. He’s already tied Todd Sheridan’s single season shutout record (3) and he still has 12 games to go. His season is one for the ages. Savor the excellence of his play.

Most Valuable Freshman: If the marketing people in Brockport Athletics need a face of hockey to promote the team for the next few years, look no further than Mitchell Parsons. With his boyish charm and lightning fast style of play, he’s an asset to the team. He’s the guy who can put fans in the stands. He’s incredibly fast and can fill voids and cover space with a real sense of urgency -- whereas most high-speed guys work in fits and starts, he’s a dynamo and he doesn’t stop. He’s got hustle. Twice already he was awarded SUNYAC Rookie of the Week honors and it’s only a matter of time before it happens again. He’s a guy who can score more than a dozen goals a season in DIII and looks like he has a few hat tricks up his sleeves.

Most Valuable Sophomore: Ryan Romeo heads into the break with an impressive 1-9-10 line. He’s on pace for a 20-point season. Darn good numbers for a forward. But, realize, Ryan is a blueliner. Those are great numbers for a defenseman! He hasn’t forsaken good defense for good offense, either, as he’s been playing mistake-free hockey. The young man can cover a lot of territory and he has excellent conditioning. He’s All-SUNYAC material, for sure.

Most Valuable Junior: The advance billing on co-captain Connor Hutchins was that this would be his season. Not only would he have to lead the team on and off the ice, he’d have to lead them in the box scores. He’s done just that. The team has obviously exceeded expectations, something possible only through effort and chemistry and he’s made sure the team has plenty of both. On top of that, his 2-9-11 line has him leading the team in scoring. His goals may be down, but that’s an outcome of bad luck – he’s had great chances but he’s been stymied by some truly brilliant saves. Here’s my crazy mid-season prediction: He will explode for 8 goals in the second half.   

Most Valuable Senior: Jake Moore. ‘Nuff said.      

I’ve been really excited about this season, before it, and through every game of it. This is a special year. A young team with great talent, chemistry, and leadership is doing great things and they are primed to be even better. Brockport Hockey is in great hands this season and well into the future.

I encourage the campus community to get to as many games as they can in the next semester. Miss a game and you’ll miss something truly exceptional. The defensive results and overall team talent – and hunger – could pay off with a decent hot streak in the second semester once the new guys get more acclimated to the game. They’ve been winning, now’s the time to win more convincingly and at a greater pace.   

These Golden Eagles remind me so much of that hardworking underdog 10 years ago…a team that hosted – and won – a playoff game at Tuttle North.

I’d love to see that again this year.

I think we will.