The Ithaca Little Red Boy’s Hockey team is entering the second half of the 2018 – 2019 schedule and are looking to recapture the momentum that propelled them to an 11-win season last year. Although lines and pairings are constantly changing, the Little Red is looking for consistency out of key players and to step up and lead the way for another winning season.
Following the first 10 games of the season, there are many takeaways both positive and negative for the Little Red that have become evident over the 3-5-2 start.
Having a solid netminder is pivotal for any team that looks to have success on the ice. For the Little Red, the solid netminding comes with a pair of goalies who have helped carry the team through the opening portion of the season as the last line of defense. William Gephart, now a sophomore, made his presence known as a go-to option for the Little Red when he went 8-7 a season ago.
This year, Gephart shares time with senior Jackson Oates, who not only provides a healthy amount of competition between the two backstops but also provides a mentoring ability for Gephart. Both goalies share an ability to snuff out offensive chances and to greatly cut down on shot angles. The pair constantly put in the extra time to ensure that their knowledge of the game is up to par with that of a dominant goalie.
Beyond the solid goaltending situation, the Little Red present a mobile offensive threat in a top scoring line. The top line that is centered by senior captain Michael Sornberger, has proven the ability to generate chances by crisply passing through the offensive zone, displacing defenses in the process. While the line has seen a varying cast of wingers, a possible solidified spot on the right wing belongs to the emerging senior Riley Pauldine. A former defenseman, Pauldine creates chances for the offense with his aggressiveness and his ability as a 200-foot player. With the creation of scrums at the boards generated by Pauldine, forwards like Sornberger, Sam Hynes-Klempa, and Nathaniel Simons, have a larger zone to maneuver in.
While the even strength offense has found enough of a consistent rhythm to put the Little Red in positions to emerge victorious, Head Coach Paul Zarach has expressed concern over the lack of production of the powerplay unit. The poor showing on the man-advantage was all-too-evident in a 2-2 tie with Shenendehowa on Jan. 4. In the final 11 minutes of play, regulation, and overtime, the Little Red skated five on four for a total of seven minutes. Ithaca seemed unable to generate quality chances, denying them a chance at a potential game-winning goal.
While the man-advantage has sparsely benefited the Little Red, the penalty kill has worked in favor of the program. Defensemen Jack Duthie and Bryce Mitchell lead the way for the Little Red with physicality and defensive awareness that provides them with anticipation of passes to help break up offensive zone pressure.
While a busy few weeks to close out the schedule lie ahead for the Little Red, there is no denying the talent level has risen with the aging of players. With one of the more challenging early season schedules, the Little Red has faced losses that while difficult to swallow, provide valuable experience for the later weeks of the 2019 portion of the schedule.
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