What sets collegiate hockey apart from other college sports is the immediate impact freshmen can make. No doubt, freshmen make significant contributions in other sports too, but the nature of hockey allows newcomers more playing time. And rookies are some of the most exciting athletes to watch.

When the North Dakota Fighting Sioux skated into Ingalls Rink two weeks ago, all 3,486 spectators got to witness arguably the best freshman in all college hockey: the Sioux’s winger Zach Parise, who currently has nine goals and 13 assists through eight games. But Yale’s own league, the Eastern College Athletic Conference, has some strong newcomers of its own, and rookies league-wide made a huge impact last weekend.

Whether it was forwards notching game-winning goals or netminders shutting down the opposition, the ECAC’s rookies have made a significant impact this season — and it’s early. Consider these performances from last weekend:

¥ Rensselaer’s Kevin Croxton had a hand in all three of the Engineers’ goals against Clarkson and St. Lawrence. He assisted on RPI’s only score in a 2-1 loss to the Golden Knights and recorded both goals, the first two of his career, as he led his squad to a 2-1 victory over St. Lawrence.

¥ Dartmouth skater Hugh Jessiman had a four-point weekend, figuring in each goal scored by his squad in losses to Harvard and Brown. He notched two assists versus the Crimson and a goal and an assist against the Bears.

¥ Cornell’s Cam Abbott had the game-winning tally against Princeton.

¥ Union goaltender Kris Mayotte is 3-0-1 with a 2.91 goals against average and .922 save percentage.

Yes, it is early in the season, but this is precisely the point: in literally their first handful of college games, the rookies are making a huge impact.

For their part, five Bulldog rookies have recorded points through the first three games. Christian Jensen ’06, Nate Jackson ’06 and Joe Zappala ’06 have each lit the lamp, while Matthew Craig ’06 and Jeff Hristovski ’06 have assisted on tallies. Jensen’s tally was the second score in the Elis’ 6-1 defeat of Colgate, which proved to be the game winner. No one needs to be reminded of Chris Higgins’ ’05 impact on the Bulldogs during his first collegiate season. Higgins led the squad in scoring last winter with 14 goals and 17 assists.

What all the statistics mean is that around the league some of the most inspiring play is coming from rookies. As one cliche would suggest, maybe they just don’t know any better. They certainly do not play like they are just getting their skates wet in the college hockey world.

From a fan’s perspective, there’s nothing greater than watching a freshman mature on a game-to-game basis. For each spectacular play a rookie might make, there will be the occasional accompanying mistake. All are sure to undergo their share of growing pains, reminding everyone that they are indeed freshmen.