Men’s hockey’s killer combo

This article has been corrected. You may view this article’s correction here.

Right winger Sean Backman ’10 and center Mark Arcobello ’10 form a dynamic duo; they just don’t play on the same line. But that’s the point.

Backman and Arcobello lead the men’s hockey team in goals with eight and five, respectively. Backman also leads the ECAC in goals, while Arcobello is tied for fourth in the conference.

Backman has been a tremendous asset to the Bulldogs on offense since his freshman year. He has won a variety of accolades, including ECAC Rookie of the Year, and both First Team All-Ivy and Third-Team All-ECAC during his freshman and sophomore years.

The emergence of Arcobello — who finished fourth on the team in goals scored last year — adds another potent scoring threat for the Elis and creates a matchup nightmare for opponents since the two play on different lines, according to head coach Keith Allain.

“I think it’s very important for our hockey club to have some balance on attack,” said Allain. “It presents problems for our opponents. Teams try to balance defensive lines against offensive lines. … We force them to make a difficult decision. It’s part of the game of hockey, you try to create matchups.”

Allain added, “With more than one unit that can score, it kind of becomes a pick-your-poison type deal.”

Backman also noted the importance of the balance of his and Arcobello’s line, since one line can pick up the slack if the other is having an off day.

“Anytime you have just one scoring line, you’re going to have your off line,” Backman said. “If our line is not going, Mark’s line is going to pick up the slack for us in terms of scoring.”

Although the two offensemen were on the same line during the 2006-’07 season and much of last season, the team’s staff felt that due to the squad’s depth, Backman and Arcobello could be split onto two different lines.

“I had a lot of success playing with Mark,” Backman said. “He’s a good playmaker, but we have guys that can fill the holes. It’s better that Coach spread the wealth out, it makes two good lines. Now we have a one-two punch.”

Backman and Arcobello acknowledged the importance of the other offensemen on their lines to their success. Instead of speaking in terms of themselves as individual scoring threats, they spoke of their lines as a unit.

Allain also noted the chemistry between players who had already played with each other on the same line as a major reason for the two lines’ offensive success. Left winger Denny Kearney ’11 and right winger Broc Little ’11 played together in New Hampshire when they were younger, and center Brian O’Neill ’12 and Backman were on the same line for much of last year, according to Allain.

As for adjusting to playing with new players on his line, Arcobello said the talent of Little and Kearney made the transition easy.

“Denny and Broc are two great players,” he said. “They’re always looking to pass and have the same kind of style as me. It wasn’t hard to get used to playing with them. They were two and three in scoring last year. When you’re playing with really good players, you get used to their style of play.”

Arcobello did not attribute his individual goal-scoring success so far this season to any change in his play; instead, he saw himself as the player on the line who finishing offensive opportunities.

“It’s just so happens that I’ve been the lucky one,” he said. “I’m not doing anything different than anything else, that’s just the way things work out. You could easily be talking to Broc and Denny if things had worked out differently.”

Despite Backman and Arcobello’s personal success so far, Allain acknowledged that at the end of the day, winning is more important to them than individual glory.

“I think it’s great that these guys are getting attention, but I think for both of the guys, getting a win is more important than getting a point on the score sheet,” he said. “That’s part of what is going to make us a successful team.”

Comments

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