Depth Players Carry CUCH Hockey to Perfect Weekend
“For when men are of action, it is with resolved plans against those who have come to no decision” – Θουκυδιδης, History of Peloponnesian War
-- Bruce Baker
“Move over, Dunner. Get outta town, Franklin. Onto the next planet, Astro. It’s our time to shine.”
-- The depth guys (probably)
Coach Bruce Baker is one happy man. Sparked by Coach's Tuesday motivation, CU depth players took the reigns to lead Columbia to a 3-0 record and 3rd place finish out of 21 teams at the East Coast Showdown in Philadelphia.
In the first of three games this weekend the Lions saw themselves matched up against Rutgers-Camden. Usually this is the part where I write about the top line getting an absurd amount of points and Columbia winning in a high scoring affair—but not this time. The story of game one was defence. Justin Paik got his first career collegiate HGS (half game shutout) before handing over the crease to Alex Killips who held steady as Columbia won 6-3. Offensively it was an unusual sight to see as go-to shut down D-man Andy Baran decided to change his role and chip in with a crucial goal for the Lions. Seeing this and realizing depth players were allowed to score, 2-way center Andrew Toporoff decided to work his way through the Rutgers defence and score a very timely goal to secure some breathing room for the Lions. Coach Baker, wearing a perfectly fitted three-piece suit had this to say:
“You know, when I was challenged with creating a practice plan to prepare the guys for this weekend I knew I had to emphasize our o-zone play along with our d-zone set-up and neutral zone positioning. Basically, I told the guys to focus on the entire ice surface and they clearly responded.” When I reminded him that I asked about his depth players Bruce went on to say that secondary scoring was “a good thing to have.”
In their second game of the weekend, Alex Killips was the star of the show with 36 saves, leading him to receive the game’s first star in a 6-3 win over Neumann University. After three agonizing hours on google maps I have figured out that Neumann U is somewhere in the Northeastern United States. Weston Goodman scored twice from the backend, but the story of the night was the play of Eitan Hoffman and Arieh Soferr(check). Although they were held goalless, they terrorized the opposing defence and were a presence all night, creating space for the top line to do their thing.
In the third and final game of the tournament, with a shot at first place on the line, coach Baker (wearing a sharp new suit) asked his players to be better than they have ever been. A crucial game for ACHA rankings saw Columbia taking on #20 ranked Penn State-Altoona. Although he did not say it directly, Bruce was asking for someone to step up and be a hero.
Ask and you shall receive.
Min Choi took this message personally as he collected his first career assist on a crucial second period goal. “Most players probably assumed coach was talking about our first line in his speech, but I knew deep down he wanted me to carry the team today, so I did.” Choi said. Alongside Minner, Chris Mendell also had a day of firsts as he collected his first career +. Hopping in on the day of firsts was forward (PM) Josh Trabout, who laid out a Penn State player and then waltzed into the o-zone before making a crisp pass to achieve his first career assist. Other depth players who scored were Kyle Lopez and Andrew Toporoff. Denny Franklin clearly received coach Baker’s message loud and clear, coming off a weekend stint with the Barnard (bɑ:h-nɑ:d) Cubs, Franklin was called up to the big club for the tournament and finally, after 10 long, horrible games of failing to achieve a double digit point night, he turned things around with 4G 6A and10PTS. The Lions knocked off Penn-State 16-5.
Although the story of the weekend was the depth guys, the first line and top defenseman Goodman contributed 23 goals in the tournament.
This tournament was huge for ACHA rankings, as #9 ranked rival, STAC, went 1-1-1 on the weekend while the Lions went 3-0-0. Look for Columbia to jump up in the rankings when they are released next month.
Mark Rassell is a Junior Reporter for the Columbia University Men’s Hockey Team. He initially misspelled both Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. You can follow him on Twitter @Mark_Rassell