• Beaney gospel showing way to promised land
    By Carleton Laird Herald Staff | November 28,2005
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    POTSDAM, N.Y. — Whenever Middlebury College men’s hockey coach Bill Beaney and any of his players give interviews following a game, they are always on the same page. The players know exactly what to say and their mentor just nods and smiles approvingly.

    For instance, the team is generally happy where they are, but they don’t take anything for granted. There are areas that need improvement and they have to keep working hard, playing just one game at a time.

    Sound like a line from “Bull Durham?” It’s not. They believe it and really, it’s pretty much true. It’s just the Middlebury hockey philosophy. No one is bigger than the team. In order to succeed, you must work together and become a cohesive unit.

    The important thing is that the players buy into it and in making that happen, Beaney is a master.

    Beaney regularly admits that the success of each team’s season depends on the players buying into what the coaching staff is teaching.

    And why wouldn’t they? It’s a system and philosophy that is certainly proven.

    Since the NESCAC ban on NCAA tournament play was lifted in 1995, the Panthers have won seven Division III national championships, advancing to the NCAA tournament 11 straight years and posting an impressive record of 262-37-16. Included in that run are five straight titles from 1995 to 1999.

    Beaney, who is in his 19th year at the Panther helm, has a record of 359-103-22 at Middlebury and has won over 400 games on the bench overall.

    The Panthers are the defending D-III champs, began the season ranked No. 1 in the uscho.com poll and are now 4-0 after sweeping this weekend’s PrimeLink Great Northern Shootout.

    Middlebury began with a 4-3 win over arch-rival and No. 7 Norwich University Friday, and then edged No. 12 Plattsburgh State 3-2 Saturday. It was a good, solid defensive effort for the Panthers but Beaney says they need to work a little harder up front.

    Nonetheless, the PrimeLink is a good measuring stick for the three teams that are among the elite in Division III. Now Potsdam is throwing its hat into that ring, having defeated Norwich for the first time in Saturday’s consolation game.

    It is also the first time Norwich lost both games in the tournament and, at 1-2-1, the Cadets find themselves under .500 for the first time in a long time.

    So now the Panthers are rolling and are the team to beat in Division III, right? Not exactly, at least according to one player.

    “In practice, when we were preparing for this week, we just kept drilling the guys about how important (the PrimeLink) is,” said junior Evgeny Saidachev, one of the Panther leaders and NESCAC Player of the Week, after the Norwich game. “We just wanted to come out and play our best game today and not worry about tomorrow.

    “Just stepping in against Norwich and taking this one means a lot because you don’t get a lot of chances against them. Plus, later down the stretch, if we make it further … but we take it just one game at a time and fortunately we came out on top today.”

    There’s no doubt that Middlebury could have lost either game with a bad bounce here or a tough break there. Still, good teams find a way to win.

    Then there’s the stigma of being No. 1. How do the Panthers handle that?

    “We play with pressure almost every day” Saidachev said. “Everybody is gunning for us so for people to know we can play against Norwich, people are going to take us seriously, that it’s not a joke and we’re not a fluke.”

    It’s not likely anyone thinks Middlebury is a fluke, nor are the Panthers lacking respect. It’s just the party line.

    “Getting on top is easy but staying up there is a lot harder,” Saidachev continued. “Today we proved we can play against good teams and hopefully it’ll continue down the stretch.”
    And the coach agrees.

    “You know, Ev’s preaching the gospel,” Beaney said. “It’s about us and how we play and how we execute, how enthusiastic we play and how we communicate. What they do is beyond our control. I think you have a lot more success if you focus in on what you can control and make the team the best team.”

    Yes, Saidachev was preaching the gospel … the gospel according to Bill Beaney.

    Contact Carleton Laird at carleton.laird@rutlandherald.com
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